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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

McEnroe Out as USTA's General Manager of Player Development



The New York Times broke the news late this afternoon that Patrick McEnroe would not continue in his position as General Manager of Player Development.

Although the USTA had hoped to announce this after the completion of the Open, the Times' report led to a hastily called news conference Wednesday evening, with USTA chairman, CEO and president David Haggerty, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Gordon Smith and McEnroe all speaking and answering questions.

The reason given for McEnroe's exit centered on his reluctance to move to Lake Nona, Florida, where the USTA will be building a huge new complex. USTA Player Development will be headquartered there, moving from its current site in Boca Raton, Florida. McEnroe never moved to Boca Raton, so why that is suddenly part of the job description is unknown, but it has been rumored for months that he was in trouble as new lows for US men's tennis began to mount.

McEnroe will stay on to help in the search for a replacement and to provide advice to his successor, but a time frame for that has not been established.  Several names have surfaced, with Davis Cup captain Jim Courier's the most plausible, but many others will no doubt be considered. From the comments McEnroe made when asked about Jose Higueras' role (near the end of the transcript), it doesn't sound like he will be among those candidates. But Smith did say, when I asked about the status of Higueras, Jay Berger and Ola Malmqvist (I'm not sure how Jorge got in question). "We don't see changes in what we're doing or who's doing it."

The Times' article, which has been revised to include quotes from the press conference, is here.  The Wall Street Journal also has published an extensive look at what might have led to the change at the top of Player Development.

The complete transcript from the press conference is available here.

Once I've returned from covering the Junior Championships here in New York, I will post my thoughts on Player Development and what direction I would like to see it to take now.  I welcome your thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think are the most important qualities for the General Manager of Player Development? Who would you like to see fill that role?  What has gone right during McEnroe's tenure?  What are some of the mistakes you think he has made in his six plus years at the USTA?

47 comments:

Coach said...

Disgraceful

And most youth matches have no competent referees

Usta s just a bunch of self serving pigs

SeminoleG said...

Rodney Harmon! What has Jose Higueras DONE! He should go also

Experts will provide the Who and Why. I can only say that as the Father of a 12yo Girl who has a network of current and former USTA PD/ITF Parents of Kids everyone seems to have issue with PD. The structure with several Hundred folks on payroll seems to miss this simple fact: Cost to travel and compete reduce those that can afford to compete, much less the cost of training. USTA PD needs to bring down the cost to compete for several 100 players (Top 10% of each section? Top 10% National?) Easter Bowl in Palm Springs? Clay Courts in Boca? etc.

What ever direction USTA PD takes if it does not significantly reduce the cost for a competitive Jr. Schedule it misses one of the most important impediments.

Many events in all parts of the US, throughout the year. Limit total number of events and ensure PD Camps touch every kid in every section that has shown good results against his peers.

I'd like a PROFESSIONAL WOMAN, with children that has been thru USTA Jrs. as a start, or African American Male. How about some Diversity!

White Men over 60 rule the USTA lets change that demographic.

Joe said...

I wonder if Patrick McEnroe will be appointed to the USTA Board of Directors so he can start getting the big bucks and kick-backs the Board members are accustomed to?

TennisDad said...

McEnroe was a horrible choice. Whether you like him or not isn't my issue. My issue is that how can you possibly be in charge of a program unless you live and breathe it. He needed to spend less (no) time on TV and more time on the road. He should have even have shown up at Sectional level events and gotten the pulse of the Nation and witnessed first had what's right and wrong about today's junior tennis. There wouldn't be a need for questionnaires and townhalls if you are on the ground talking to people. I'm not knocking him for wanted to be a commentator, but he had a choice to make and the director of PD isn't a position that can be a part time job. Esp not at the salary he received. Quite frankly, the new PD needs to be more in touch with what it's like at every level of tennis because the current selection process isn't working. Once you realize the geographic and cultural issues don't make us the same as France and Spain and that there is actually a benefit to US size and diversity, then you can figure out how to take advantage of it and build a proper 'farm' system. The new PD needs to instill a better 'respect the game' mentality amongst the players supported by PD. Part of the problem is that many (not all) of those players take things for granted and become spoiled. Kids like that aren't going to work has hard as a kid who may have come from a war torn county hitting balls in a swimming pool. Kids today need 7 racquets, Gatorade, and outfit, etc, etc before they'll just take the court. Kids have to really want it and know that every sponsorship isn't promised. That mentality starts with the very top. Respect the game and get hungry to be on the court!

The Facts said...

Collete,

Why do you even post comments that have no substance...."USTA are a bunch of self serving pigs." Your site has become a blog of babies and whiners !! It is sad to see so many people with all the wrong facts. I challenge you to do an objective article of USTAPD from 2007- present. Get al of the facts. and then formulate an opinion. It is sad to see you post some of these comments that are factually in accurate and pretty distasteful. I am coming to the realization that you like seeing the USTA fail and you were pretty happy about someone losing their job yesterday.

I challenge you Collete as a media person to present all the facts to your reader base and then let them make their own opinions. As long as you keep posting articles that are based on opinion and not fact you are just contributing to the problem. Hope you listen and at least try to be objective in the transition.

russ said...

Let's just start with what the USTA said Patrick has accomplished. He has created a broad-based and organized regional and national program. He has created a set of regional training centers around the country. He has organized a coaching education program to raise the level of all coaches. In the last few years he has done more out reach then ever before in an effort to be more inclusive. McEnroe, in his own comments, is most proud of the team of coaches he has assembled, while the second thing he's most proud of is the out reach.

My first reaction is akin to reading a padded resume by a sub par job applicant. When you delve into these accomplishments a little more, the thin gruel turns even more watery. The team of coaches he assembled, according to most of the juniors, sucks. They haven’t any feel for an individual’s particular game, they over train the juniors resulting in numerous injuries, there are conflicts with parents and players, there’s a lack of trust and bonding, and the kids feel totally disposable. The only coach that seemed to be liked was Mike Sell and he is no longer there. The outreach program was necessitated by the grumblings of parents and private coaches, the stench of failure in the program, and was precipitated by Jon Wertheim’s call out last year of McEnroe’s stewardship. Before that outreach, the program was notorious for its arrogance, insularity, its bloated budget, McEnroe’s modest time investment, and simply, as the transcript notes, “pissing” people off. That’s the two brightest gems in his crown. A mite tarnished I would say.

As for the regional training centers, I know they exist but what will be their role once Lake Nona becomes a reality? If anything, Lake Nona seems to be the USTA’s real pride and joy, but as I mentioned in a comment months ago, I see it as a gigantic boondoggle. A terrible waste of resources that will be underutilized.

Then there’s the problems with the junior competition that this board has often weighed in and that McEnroe mentioned briefly. There’s the lack of results on the men’s side and the over hyping of the women’s. The cavalry may be coming, according to Patrick, but two of the brightest stars come from the JTCC, one is coached by his father, and a fourth went to South America. The up and coming juniors are good, but how much do they owe to the USTA and how much to a more decentralized approach the USTA has undertaken? And how does the new decentralization work with the new centralized concept of Lake Nona?

As for accomplishments, I can list three. More clay tournaments on the futures level. A better relationship with the college game. And one item not mentioned by anyone in the transcript, the under ten program with age/skill appropriate balls.

Hopefully yesterday’s press conference was putting cologne over a stinky situation and they don’t really believe his tenure has been a great success.

TCF said...

Now they move on to the 4th leader in 15 years. The USTA needs to stop the high performance nonsense. Top players will come from making the sport popular with lots of kids and supporting the kids and coaches in their own environments. No central training is needed.

Like coach said, it starts with the tournaments. Kids calling lines and scores does not work. Bullies, cheaters, aggressive kids have a huge advantage. Talented yet quiet kids get beat. Great shots close to the lines are called out. Great athletes from other sports leave tennis and go back to sports with officials. The USTA should spend every dime for kids on having refs on EVERY court, every match....just like every kids sport, just like pro tennis. The honor system leads to rankings based on aggression and cheating and not on skill. Thats the main problem with jr development.

Plotinus said...

I think the answer is easy: Find someone who has a proven track record of success in player development and hire that person.

That person need not be American.

Shawn - TN said...

Does anyone here remember when the USTA decided to get rid of Boys's 12's competition, and then decided later it was a bad idea... We all complained when they came up with the idea that competition was hurting boys and they ignored us then. A whole group of boys was messed up and there were no apologies.

Now, they are messing up the Boys and Girls, age 12-18's with the 2014 CUTS to the National Tournament structure. Not one junior, coach or parent is happy. When are they finally going to own up to another mistake and go back to 2010?

We need to go back to the 256 draw for Kalamazoo.

How many junior or college matches has PMac attended? said...

A million dollar salary for what?????
Any time I asked to speak to him about anything related to juniors, I was told he didn't handle it.
Way to blow of a blue chip parent.

Fed up said...

Juniors is a cesspool of cheating and bad behavior in the United States( racquets throwing, cursing, and spiking the ball). All complaints made to sectional were ignored for years.
Throw out the sectional heads too, they let the same cheaters play over and over again with one or two small vacations for the kids( that is how the kids refer to it when they have a few weeks suspension - it's a vacation). That's the repercussions for cheating juniors?
Sure, karma comes when they are not wanted on any college tennis team ( everyone hates these kids), but meanwhile they ruin the experience for the honest kids, and drive many of them from the sport. You want to grow the sport, get rid of the bad kids but in order to do that you need to get rid of the sectional heads, they just ignore the problem.

tennisfanatic said...

A million dollars this year, a million dollars that year, a million dollars another year, and then realizing that he actually didn't do anything to deserve the $, took a salary cut to 750,000. Of course, makes total sense, this is the USTA after all where all money is spent on the fat cats and not a dime on the tournaments.

Sandy said...

Please hire a person who actually has children that play in the USTA junior tournament system and knows what is going on. We need responsible leadership to increase the draw size at Kalamazoo as this is the recruiting vehicle for College tennis.
Boys are getting hammered by the foreigners taking all the spots in college, and they need visibility at this event. They did not need their chance to be seen taken away.... And please do not have us attend any more listening meeting where 100% of the folks are against the changes, and you vote them through anyway. I have never seen a period of time in American tennis where everyone hates the USTA.

No honor among thieves. said...

Get rid of the sectional heads too, except for the midwest.
The Midwest tournaments are well run and supervised.
The rest of the sections are just awful. No accountability at all. After you go to a tournament and spend all this $( gas, tournament fees, hotel if a far drive), and encounter one ref for 8 courts and fighting among the kids, you understand the drop out rate in tennis to group sports. Any complaints to USTA are never acted upon, and kids never get punished. No honor among thieves.

LoveTheGame said...

Good news he is out. USTA does not need another "name." They need someone who has built the foundation of players and has a background in administration. Possibly a former college tennis coach or even a GM or administrator from another one of the major sports. Courier is not the answer. Agassi, etc. New blood, new vision.

Tennis5 said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/tennis-busted-racquet/tennis-s-eternal-conflicts-of-interest-front-and-centre-wednesday-in-u-s--open-mcenroe-case-231427474.html

"Only in tennis could this almost-humorous set of circumstances occur.

Well, it wasn't very humorous for ESPN tennis commentator and soon-to-be former USTA head of player development Patrick McEnroe. But it's a moment that perfectly illustrates how inbred the sport is.

In the late afternoon Wednesday, the New York Times broke the news that McEnroe, the man in charge of developing the U.S.'s next generation of champions, was to be relieved of his duties after the U.S. Open, after six years on the job…

Shortly before that news broke, McEnroe was on a U.S. Open practice court hitting with his brother John, as if nothing else were going on…."

(WAIT A MINUTE….. NOTHING IS GOING ON FOR PATRICK MCENROE that Wednesday that he has all the time in the world to actually hit with his brother John on an open court at the US Open….. Did he forget that the US Juniors were playing right there too at the US Junior Open????)

McEnroe was also criticized for his high salary, averaging about $1 million a year for the four years through 2012 for which records were available, the Times reported.

But here's where those incestuous tennis conflicts show up: the press conference, which was to include two USTA execs and McEnroe himself, was delayed and delayed – because McEnroe was on ESPN, doing television commentary about the crown jewel tournament of the organization that had been planning to fire him."

( that’s the ironic part of the story, he was late to his own firing of a job that pays between $750,000 – 1,000,000 a year because his other job at ESPN held him up).

You asked.... said...

I would like to see someone that truly understands what it is like to raise a top junior player from the ground up. Just as important is someone that realizes that the prize money for winning a Futures has to be at least 5K+, not the measly $1200 the winner brings home that doesn't even cover their expenses. There is no incentive to play through the futures circuit today. There are talented players that realize tennis isn't a good investment and it is killing the sport. Quit spending the money on 14 year olds in PD and giving them the WCs when there are some strong players who disappear because there is no real "farm system" for pro tennis in the U.S. Quit investing so much in the few chosen ones at the expense of everyone else - seek input from private coaches and academies on players that are worth watching; quit doing it from their Boca bubble filled with money flying around that they are just grabbing and shoving in their pockets.

Please not Jay Berger, he is old school and part of the good ol' boy network that is ruining U.S. tennis.

Have an advisory council of parents (say one per section) that meets to discuss issues to present to the board. Perhaps people who have players either in or just finishing juniors that understand the system and challenges.

I think there are enough diversity programs everywhere giving too much away, and don't think every white man over 60 is the issue, it is affluent people with oversized paychecks that don't get it. I would certainly nominate you, Colette!

! said...

Richard Williams...Robert Lansdorp..Nick B..MANY club and private coaches you have never heard of..
hopefully the USTA finds the right person this time.
Need to look and emphasize TALENT. Not exclusively "rankings" and "attitude" in the 12's.
I am the father of a player who had a horrible attitude on court "perfectionist". As soon as the rankings slid "former top 10 in the 12's at the age of 11" the USTA dropped this kid like a bad habit. At the time of the "drop" the kid was beating D-1 number 1-2 singles players occasionally. But due to the rankings and the attitude..the drop occurred. It was traumatic for my child after being removed from the "invitation only" camps..and subsequently, the racquet was put away for good. Not removing myself from the blame one bit..but we need someone in charge of player development that can MAYBE help a player who I see MULTIPLE pro's with the same, if not worse attitude on court. And GLORIFYING the attitude with the recent commercial featuring John Mcenroe and Andy Roddick.

Richard said...

The biggest two complaints seem to be about the incessant cheating and the cuts to Kalamazoo.
Easy fix, but will they do it...
Or just roll out another survey or listening meeting?

karl said...

Colette, I wish someone would address the ridiculous situation that happened at Easter Bowl this year with the timing of the tennis event at the same time as the music festival. Our hotel's price went up over $300 a night from the original price, and there were absolutely NO hotels to be found. The USTA PD staff was there, but do you think they payed for their hotels? This is an organization that only cares about themselves. Any complaint made to them was completely ignored.

Coach said...

The tournament environment for young kids is horrendous. That is why so many quit. Not worth the money that appears to end up n boca or New York

The organization is not there for children. It is there to be abused by the leadership and directors

Th money should go toward improving the tournament experience for kids which is now a cesspool

Start with competent refs like every other sport and move on from there after th cheaters and bad actors are dealt with



Paul said...

Funny, there is not one comment on your blog that thinks the USTA is doing a good job with the 99.9 percent of the juniors in this country.
I am sure it is only the PD juniors who were happy as they get all the perks, free training, free travel, free lodging, and and PD coaches that yell out loud to the PD players how to beat our players during the match.

James said...

Also the Orlando complex will solve nothing unless you live in lake Nona and need to find an empty court

Mark - California said...

60 million dollars for another tennis complex?
I would have spent that money on the American pros trying to compete on the future tour who make less than someone at Burger King. If the USTA wants to do one thing right - stop building Orlando, we need the money now to support the men in the Futures.

LA Dad said...

The reason that the US women have more up-and-comers than the men is Title IX. Not that the top US women play college, but that as juniors they stick with the sport because they know they can play college if they want. The boys learn at around 14 that they have little-to-no chance of a full college scholarship so the really great athletes tend to go to a sport where the can more likely play college.

The next USTA Head of PD should try to get a Title IX exemption for men's tennis in NCAA DI, or negotiate to sponsor US players in college who couldn't get that full scholarship.

He or she should also negotiate with the NCAA to limit the number of foreign plays receiving tennis scholarships as was done by the NJCAA for the junior college system. The USTA must work to improve the chances of US junior and college players to get better.

There are plenty of great coaches out there, but the next PD head should have above all political stroke to get things done, and not necessarily be a tennis coach.

Start with the Futures Circuit said...

Help the men's futures circuit - make the prize earnings bigger so they can make a living. The guy sitting on the the bench and not playing for the football team can support a family. The guy on the futures tour can't afford a good room for the night or support himself. And it is either this or be the less than 1% of the men playing college tennis that have a full ride. And the girls have 2 sitting on the bench with a full (and play 2 or 3 less sets in a match but demanded equal pay, really?) And they are asking why is American men's tennis hurting? Are they serious? It is right there in front of them?!

Tired of poor poor me...yadda yadda yadda said...

I have so tired of the talk of spoiled Americans versus the poor hungry immigrant and because of all their suffering it has made them better players. Nonsense, being spoiled has nothing to do with it, U.S. players are just smarter than their foreign counterparts and know when something is a good investment and when its not. Right now, American tennis is not a good career path. As a foreign player if you get help from your country and/or have a good competitive system in place (which many do) be thankful for it, but don't come play in the U.S. and call the players here lazy. The tennis system has failed them, the players haven't.

And to "The Facts" you may want to research what a blog is - Colette is not here to censor people's opinions, and yes, they are opinions and people are entitled to them. What Colette posts are facts. Get it straight.And btw, many do believe that the statement, "the USTA are self serving pigs" is a fact.

Rory - NJ said...

It is a disgrace that the heads of the USTA have used the $ for themselves, it's like their own piggybank.
If Patrick had taken $125,000 salary and did this half witted job, there wouldn't be this kind of outrage. But, a million dollars a year? I have been at the national tournaments for the past 5 years and have never seen him. That million dollars could have gone to pay for refs for the tournaments.
Let's see a million dollars divided by $15 an hour for refs = 67,000 hours of refs a year.
Or 1,000,000 divided by $10,000 for guys on the tour = 100 pros.

The USTA blew him off before, maybe they can listen now. said...

USTA - want to know why all the real athletes in this country play football and baskektball. It's the $. There is no scholarship money for boys in tennis.
Until you actually acknowledge this problem. the best boys will always play the $ sports.


http://www.tennis-prose.com/articles/wayne-bryans-letter-to-the-usta/

Address the glut of college players in American college tennis. This is the big elephant in our tennis living room. The USTAhas never taken a stand on this. They even put out a White Paper saying basically that there is no problem. I chaired a panel discussion on this two years ago and the four USTA Staffers at the table all said American kids are “no good” and “lazy”. Huh?! There are several million dollars in tennis scholarships going to foreing players whose parents do not spend dollar one in taxes for education in this country. In this dire economy this is unconscionable it seems to me.

UCSB Story: I made my annual trip up to see my ol’ school UCSB beat UOP on Friday and made a little check contribution to the team, but it broke my heart to see most all the players on both teams being from Hong Kong and Denmark and France, and everywhere but the USA.

Baylor wins the NCAA Team Title a couple of years ago with six foreign players. What do we do? We make their head man theITA Coach of the Year!

And I had a nice long chat with a Freshman who was watching and supporting the team from Washington DC who couldn’t quite crack the lineup at UCSB and he was saying that he “just wasn’t quite good enough”. That broke my heart and I remembered back to my wonderful days playing there in the late 60s and having everyone on the squad from California (they are all close pals to this day – one a doctor, two lawyers, one in real estate and two still in tennis) and we played maybe one team all year that had one foreign player.

With 65% of the players being from overseas, it is criminal and most of all, it is a crying shame that American college tennis is now a world class sport. It should be for our American youngsters to enjoy and to derive the wonderful benefits. Are those parents of the players from Europe and Asia paying taxes to support UCSB and all the other colleges in this country? To ask the question is to answer it.

European soccer and Japanese baseball have quotas re foreign players. As Steve Bellamy points out, to be Miss America you must be from the US. To be President of the United States you must be Born in the USA as Bruce Springstein would sing.

One foreign player per team? – - – fine – - – helps international good will and is a nice broadening experience for the guys on the team – - – six foregn
players?! – - – I say the emperor has no clothes. I say burn it down and start over again. Time for a revolt. Carthage must be destroyed!

I have been spectacularly unsuccesful in getting this elephant in our American living room removed. I have made speech after speech to coaches and parents in this country and they are 100% behind me and I’ve spoken to the college coaches national meeting in Florida on three occasions in recent years and I’ve hit this topic as hard as only Wayne Bryan can – - – to no avail.

Continuation of Wayne's letter said...

Per Wayne -

Lamp Story: Light the lamp in the living room at 8:30 in the evening and it lights up the room and puts a warm glow everywhere. Take that same lamp outside on a Summer day at noon and you cannot see any shine coming from it at all. It is all drowned out by the bright sun. Have only American kids playing college tennis and the crowds will be even bigger and the tennis just fine and exciting. Open college tennis up to the whole world and make it world class and our US kids are diminished. Why not make High School Tennis world class too? Why not have all the foreign coaches come over and take all the jobs away from our American coaches? College tennis should not be a world class sport. It should be for our American kids. And the scholarships should go to them and be helpful to their parents who pay all those taxes and who have supported their children and their tennis and their academics every step of the way.

It is time for the USTA to stand up and be counted on this issue. It is our USTA juniors who are losing out and paying the price. This glut of foreign players is chilling US junior tennis. When their is no fruit or flowers on the top, the vine dies.

Dan said...

Collette, fire the sectional heads. Or the 16 out of 17 who voted for the changes against our wishes.
When I complained to Eastern ( worst section ), that all parents were against changes, I was completely dismissed.

laura said...

Language was pretty strong in the first comment, but would have to agree. USTA is just collecting their paychecks and ignoring all the problems that juniors face in this country. No refs, no competent refs, fighting at tournaments, fist fights, you name it.
The wild west of terrible behavior with no grownups to manage it. And complaining to sectionals is a waste of time, they don't care. No wonder the kids quit this sport.

Guess even the PD players were unhappy too said...

EW YORK -- Parents of top current and former U.S. junior tennis players said Wednesday night they were relieved to hear of the shakeup at the USTA with the departure of player development head Patrick McEnroe.

"I think it's overdue," said Sheila Townsend, mother of 18-year-old Taylor, the best junior player in the world in 2012 now ranked 103rd in the WTA. "Nothing against [McEnroe] personally, I just think if this were a for-profit company and it had a CEO who hadn't produced any kind of positive results for this amount of time, the shareholders ourselves would have let that person go long before this."


Gayal Black, mother of Tornado Alicia Black, the No. 3-ranked junior in the world and a player who has gone through USTA development since winning the Nationals 12s title at age 10, said the entire program needs an overhaul.

"I'm very, very happy, not because [McEnroe's out] but because a big change is coming," she said. "We need to clean house. New coaches, new everybody."

McEnroe, also an ESPN tennis analyst, said Wednesday night the decision to step down was based largely on his unwillingness to commit to being a full-time employee.

And indeed one of Black's biggest problems with the program, she said, is that McEnroe has spent little time with the top young players in Florida, including her daughter.

Done.. said...

Very sad that this organization doesn't seem to care about the juniors at all in this country. No wonder tennis is in the doldrums. I received the new questionaire and just trashed it. I spent good money to go to the listening meeting and was ignored when I spoke about the cuts to Kalamazoo and what it would mean to our juniors in terms of visibility for recruiting. They didn't acknowledge my complaints, didn't listen, and have zero interest that mens college tennis is becoming increasingly foreign. Learned my lesson with my older son, but I won't make the mistake with the younger one. He is staying in baseball.

Part 1 said...

(Editor: This story was first posted 15 months ago. We never stopped running it. We went as far as this week calling Pat Mac a Teflon brother. We are truly pleased. It’s 4,300 words composed from years of frustrations and first hand experience By: An American Guardian Of The Game . )
http://www.10sballs.com/2014/09/03/the-emperor-has-no-clothes-by-american-guardian-of-the-game-2/

Where are the Americans in the year end championships ? No Single Players ! We do have one doubles team ” The Bryan Bros ” coached and developed by their mother and their dad.)

Patrick McEnroe, you are responsible for directing the quite extensive resources of the USTA into junior player development. In the absence of producing successful players, rather than taking responsibility, you have chosen to throw the junior tennis players and their coaches under the bus. It is time to call you to task.

“For the first time since 1912, when no American men entered the tournament, not one advanced past the second round.”

Patrick McEnroe concedes there may be some truth in the claim that young Americans aren’t willing to sacrifice as much as their counterparts around the world. “Blaming our players is not the answer,” he said. “We need to educate them at a younger age about what it takes, so they learn the right things to do early.” –Washington Post

Not willing to sacrifice? There are thousands of kids out there that spend a fortune to travel to USTA national (you know, the ones with the absurd $151 entry fees) and international tournaments in search of competitive match play and rankings. Many of them sacrifice normal adolescent lives and relationships in order to pursue something greater. They forego fun weekends and post- school-day hangouts with friends and social interaction, and they incur injuries and debt and failure on a regular basis. They spend five hours per day on court and another hour in the gym, and give up fun fatty foods for those which will fuel their bodies. They suffer weeks where the mood of the house is dependent upon their performance and, sadly, they may only be ten years old when that pressure begins. They endure losses and failure and some of that may be attributable to their unavoidable lack of talent or athleticism. They give up dates with boyfriends or girlfriends and Friday night football games and family vacations so they can boost their rankings or get in one more practice. They tolerate constant soreness and dehydration – and a future with swollen joints – for a shot at what is almost impossible. They risk what would be college tuition money in hopes of avoiding injury and perfecting their games in order to receive an athletic scholarship. And you have the audacity to claim they are not willing to sacrifice as much as their counterparts around the world? Let’s look at who is the pot calling the kettle names here.

YOU are the Czar of Player Development for juniors in the US, and presumably make the recommendations to the USTA how to structure player development across the United States. It thus appears that YOU agree with shortening matches from three sets to two-plus-a-breaker. YOU marginalized or eliminated doubles matches. YOU attempted to constrict draws so fewer kids would get to compete at nationals. YOU decided to introduce and promote Ten and Under Tennis/Quickstart to make the game EASIER, and to prevent talent from advancing when they are ready. YOU imposed a mandate based upon unproven research to make the game easier and then accuse us of not working hard enough. YOU transformed from someone, who avoided accepting juniors with collegiate intentions into your player development program, into someone who thinks college can be good preparation for professional tennis. YOU claim our children are not willing to sacrifice and then you lower the barriers to progress in every way. YOU have only YOURSELF TO BLAME for America’s current state in the game.

Part 2 said...

To claim Americans don’t understand hard work or that we are unwilling to sacrifice is to go against the character of this nation. When the competition gets tough, Americans step up – WE always have. WE do not look without for excuses. WE do not blame the competitive arena for better competitors, or suggest that the global nature of sport makes it tougher for us. That’s what YOU do. WE get tougher, more dedicated. WE do not turn to a bureaucracy to cure our ills, but rather, WE seek that innovative individual spirit and revolutionary wherewithal that allowed this nation to overcome tyranny and thrive in the face of despotism. WE are as blue collar as it gets and WE are more than willing to jump into the trenches to fight for what we believe. WE are willing to work harder than any competitor and to sacrifice everything for a shot at titles. Ask the Brothers Bryan and the Sisters Williams. Every two years, our Olympians confirm that the American athlete is still one of the greatest in the world. In spite of your efforts to shorten matches and hold kids back from the yellow tennis ball, WE teach our children to overcome obstacles, to thwart dictatorial regimes, and to prosper through perseverance. To us, sacrifice is one step on the trail to greatness, and to suggest we are not willing to forfeit everything for a chance at glory is to demean our character. WE take umbrage at your insolence.

The truth, however, is success requires leadership. And our present leader is performing a half-ass job for one organization, while taking money from another, and then scapegoating the people he is presumably responsible for. That is hypocritical, irresponsible and arrogant, so we leave that for YOU, with the hope that you never again confuse the letters ESPN with USTA.

YOU continue to blame the kids for not being able to construct points and accuse them of not being willing to sacrifice (Yes, I know you said “blaming our players is not the answer” but that is exactly what you are doing), to blame the parents for being poorly educated about the sacrifices required for this game. And yet, YOU are the one who will avoid junior tournaments like the plague. YOU refuse to commit to the private coaching hours required to develop talent by tossing and feeding millions of balls, and sitting with players to explain what is needed to become an elite professional, and getting to know them holistically – their families, their schools, their personal relationships, and emotional setbacks, and injury-filled pasts, and myriad other petty and unsexy things that make up a human being first and a tennis player second. YOU would rather sit in your comfortable commentator’s booth or White Plains office and offer scathing opinions of America’s best young talent. The pivotal lines of leadership are not sketched on some whiteboard. They are created through inspiration and participation.

Leadership’s robes do not come from making appearances, but rather, from fighting in the trenches with the troops, and surrendering one’s self for your team, and giving up media jobs and high-powered luncheons and seven-figure salaries to tough it out when the lighting is dim and the courts are cracked and the body is exhausted. That is sacrifice, and it is YOU who are unwilling to make it. I’ll say it again, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

Part 3 said...

YOU have hired foreign coaches who prepare the curriculum for player development and who should have the motivational tools to get players to push to the levels required for professional tennis. YOU have chosen to abandon the American coaches who’ve been responsible for the development of so many world champions, including those from other countries. YOU have chosen to take top junior players away from their private coaches and bring them to your foreign coaches, coaches who continue to fail to produce champions from the obscene crop of talent we private coaches continue to push into your funnel of failure – If these foreign coaches aren’t succeeding, why haven’t you fired them?

Here’s another one of your loathsome comments:

“I can guarantee you there are more, better coaches in other countries than in this country, percentage-wise.” – Men’s Journal

Really? Then perhaps you should go join them. A leader doesn’t praise the enemy and belittle his own troops, but rather, a leader leads by example. Leadership is about role modeling and solving problems. It requires hours of helping people break habits and putting in the effort and motivational time to rebuild them as confident competitors, not blaming them for lack of hard work and scapegoating them for your own personal and professional failures. Assuming you actually believe these foreign coaches are better, leadership means getting your presumed “better coaches” out to the masses to educate the “lesser American coaches” so that a rising tide will lift all ships. This makes more sense than cherry-picking the best kids and taking them from their private coaches who do all of the grunt work. Leadership is the place where responsibility and accountability kiss, and right now that seems to be where the sun don’t shine.

Maybe if you got your ass out of the media booth for those eight weeks per year that you are supposed to be doing your player development job, and placed it on a court with some of the country’s best developmental coaches, you’d understand what I’m talking about. You want respect from the tennis community? Grab a racket and a few beginners and come earn it! Until you join us in the trenches, we have neither the time nor the inclination for your disparaging words.

Wrongly, YOU believe our job as private coaches is to bring talented and successful kids to you because you believe you can do it better than us. YOU expect us to slog hours through the developmental muck and to help young children develop character, work ethic, passion and commitment. YOU expect us to bring you perfectly formed little champions so you can ride their coattails of success and expound upon your own sagacity. And when they don’t make it, you accuse these kids of NOT SACRIFICING ENOUGH FOR YOU? That is a condemnation of the coaches, the kids and the families. To blame others for your own ineptitude is the highest form of arrogance. I commend you on your achievement!

You hire ex-players as coaches assuming – with NO evidence – the skill set for coaching is the same as the skill set for competing. Though these are great people who want the best for the kids, this demonstrates your complete lack of understanding of the requisite talent comprising the developmental coaching community.

Part 4 said...

Meanwhile, you sit in your high-salaried office having your coaches recruit/steal America’s top juniors by offering them travel and coaching incentives from your $300 million dollar US OPEN trust fund – a fund we private coaches cannot compete with – and then blame everyone but yourself when the kids do not make it. YOU and your coaching staff have access to every single top player in America, you have a massive player development budget compared to other nations, you have training centers and the best technology money can buy, you have private housing for kids and coaches and an absurd expense account for your personal needs, you have equipment manufacturers and trainers and past champions at your beck and call. Annually, the US produces juniors who win international championships at both individual and team competitions, and then the USTA PD staff picks them up to presumably “take them to the next level.”

And with all of that – more resources than any nation on the planet – the USTA PD program has failed to produce a champion. Yet, the organization continues to spend millions of dollars in pursuit of just one success story to justify its existence. American tennis is at its worst place in our nation’s history and you are manning the helm of a ship that continues to sink into the depths of international waters now thick with better boats. And you have the gall to impugn us? At what point do you begin to blame yourself for the recent dearth of American champions? The mirror never lies, Patrick. THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!

Frankly, I am not even questioning your intentions. I truly believe you’d like to see American tennis rise again. But intention and arrogance are rotten comrades. With intention should come humility, and an honest assessment of one’s accomplishments and failures. On this account, you are lacking. It is time for you to go. Before you do, though, please put some clothes on because someone has now exposed your nakedness and the crowd is starting to speak up.

Part 5 said...

It would be irresponsible of me to cast aspersions without offering some remedies for our current state. And so, in the interest of bettering American tennis:



ACTION ITEM ON

After twenty-five years of abysmal non-performance, the USTA player development program needs to reassess its purpose. According to the establishment’s current mission statement, “To grow the game…” they should be directing their resources toward community tennis initiatives, tournament structures, and league tennis. However, believing the development of an elite cadre of American athletes will contribute to the growth of the game, the USTA has taken on the daunting role of player development. Several high level coaches contend this approach does not fall within the boundaries of the organization’s proposed mission, and deem the USTA’s approach antithetical to the private coaching community’s success.

Patrick McEnroe sees the private coaching community as a conduit into the USTA PD national program. “Coaches should be promoting their programs by touting the number of players they send to us,” stated McEnroe at an event in Southern California. Within the private coaching profession, a vocal community reflects on the PD program’s lack of success and questions whether PD really can do it better. They feel the USTA is cherry-picking the nation’s best players with promises of free coaching, grant money, wildcard opportunities, and travel expenses to ITF events.

“The USTA tells parents the players have to attend their workouts 4-5 days a week, and play within their development system. Too often, this “system” goes against the private coach’s theory on player development and the kid ends up leaving the private coach for the USTA perks. It is not the direct theft of a player, but what parents and kids are going to say “No” to the sport’s governing body? Then, when the player underperforms, the USTA drops the kid for the next presumed prodigy. Two decades later, with no accountability for their failures, they are still searching for someone to hang their hat on,” says one prominent Southern California coach wanting to maintain anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Part 6 said...

Having traveled the world with junior and professional players, I feel the USTA has a less-than-outstanding understanding of how to construct an elite player development program. The professional tennis world is an ocean of talent. The current PD model has PD scouts traveling from small pond to small pond, all across the country, in search of a few talented drops of water. They remove these players from their small ponds, offer them the world, and expect them to enter the professional ocean and make an impact. Handpicking twenty or so kids per year has about the same odds as buying a winning lottery ticket, and, with millions dollars going into the program, appears to be an abhorrent waste of money.

Instead, the USTA should change its model. With PD coaches who’ve had tour experience and a good understanding of professional tennis life, they have an under-utilized and improperly directed asset. These PD coaches should not be centrally located to work with players, but rather, travel around the country working with players and their private coaches. By passing on their knowledge to private coaches, they are no longer limited to affecting a few players per year, but now access and inform all of the players under all of the coaches with whom they communicate. Once done, the few drops in a pond will become strong currents of players in a river that flows mightily into the ocean of professional tennis. John Kennedy said A rising tide lifts all boats, and in this case, PD should allocate its resources to raising the floodwaters of American coaching.

But this would entail removing the egos from the equation, the desire to have OUR OWN USTA kids, under OUR OWN tutelage, so we can show how good WE ARE as national coaches. It would require these national coaches to stop hoarding their presumed wisdom for their post-USTA careers and to focus on educating the nation’s coaches so we can grow the quality of American tennis as a whole.

Sadly, USTA PD now sees itself in competition with the private coaching community. The PD coaches work with talent taken from private coaches, and then, to the detriment of the other U.S. kids, sit behind court fences cheering on their OWN charges. Few things are more offensive to a tennis parent than seeing his/her own child cheered against by the organization that presumably attracted the kid to the game in the first place. It is nepotism inverted.

Get the information into the hands of the people that can use it and let the kids compete.

Step one on the path back to American success involves sending USTA’s PD coaches out to the country’s tennis clubs such that more coaches and players have access to the best information available. Do this only until their contracts run out and then move on to Action Item Two.

part 7 said...

ACTION ITEM TWO

In a quest to repudiate the USTA PD’s belief that they are responsible for producing the next generation of US players, and in the hopes that the USTA will stop cherry-picking America’s top players in the search for a champion, I herewith offer another solution for American player development.

The USTA has made an assumption that hiring former professional players is the equivalent to hiring quality professional level coaches. Frankly, there is almost zero correlation between the playing and coaching skill sets. Coaching requires creativity, an ability to articulate information through aural, kinesthetic and visual means. It demands incredible patience and an ability to motivate others. Moreover, coaching involves a wholesale commitment to a player in order to understand: 1) the psychological barriers which might impede a player’s progress, 2) the familial and training environment the player must deal with in addition to tennis practices, 3) a history of the player’s emotional and physical development so as to modify training for trauma, injury, and various other stressors, 4) etc.

Playing, however, requires a wholly different skill set. Great players feel the ball, the urgencies and vacillations, and the instinctive shot making. This is not to say great players cannot be great coaches, but rather, only that great players are not necessarily great coaches. Blessed with supreme talent, many professional tennis players frequently cannot articulate how they perform technical skills. Their learning experience is concentrated upon their particular learning style, and their sole concern is motivating themselves. Better than most people, great players recognize the hours required to master certain skill sets, and to suggest they can become great coaches without putting in the requisite hours is to belittle the coaching profession and to express a level of arrogance not conducive to a supra-standard organization. Only a poorly educated organization would hire employees based on assumptions rather than evidence.

However, these coaches have wisdom from playing experience, and clearly it would be irresponsible not to include them in the national player development plan. But, their knowledge should go to the coaching community whose professional skill in developing players is far better. To help American tennis, the governing body should focus on the infrastructure, not the end product. Rather than commandeer the talented few, build the framework and let champions emerge. This is the American way.

"LIVE FROM NEW YORK..It's Saturday NIGHT" said...

the BBC is reporting….the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" of Saturday Night have hired Pat McEnroe..:) look at it this way…you get to stay n New York:)

jeez said...

Reading the comments. You can see so many of the problems with American tennis. Namely entitlement and zero understanding of how things actually work or what the job is all about.

- "blue chip parent". what??? blue chip? 5 star? who cares.

- Futures prize money is dictated by ITF. Not usta, its not like grand slam prize money thats announced by federations.

- draw size at Kalamazoo has little to do with amount of foreign players in college tennis.

-Lake Nona is more for other parts of USTA than player development. PD only gets a fraction of the courts. the rest are for UCF, future NCAA site, league tennis, community tennis, etc. Sad but true.

-good luck getting a title IX exemption. or limiting foreign scholarships. NCAA and ITA issues, not player development/usta. its like jurisdiction that you learn in CivPro.

Brian Parrott said...

First, I think Zoo Tennis is an excellent outlet for information and thoughtful analysis by CLewis.

My suggestion for PD is a 'Co' position....Wayne Bryan and Greg Patton together. I believe the position needs a 'mentoring' kind of personality...one that encourages...both of those individuals have that trait instinctively.

Wayne knows, and understands, club's...for one. The tennis clubs through our great country (and the public facilities of course) can be the 'entry point' for youth. Each facility that WANTS to help CAN, by offering a Junior Membership (with a limited time frame) to an outstanding boy and girl in their neighborhood that COULD NOT afford club membership...or if the child had parents that might not be supp ortive of their interest in tennis.

Perfect example: The Seattle Tennis Club, when it was in a mode to HELP develop players, gave an INTERMEDIATE MEMBERSHIP to an outstanding athlete/basketball/baseball player who was very skinny, and very fast.

He was mentored by players/people like 'Righty and Lefty' Eden, Bill Quillian (STC's top player/great man)...and this player had a place to play, got on the traveling teams for tournaments and he continued to develop.

This is a true story...and it can be duplicated AROUND THE COUNTRY very soon...for those clubs that want to help find American boys and girls that have talent, but need a place to call home for their tennis.

The player was/is Tom Gorman of Seattle...who rose to #8 in the world. (If somebody could have shown him a little better technique on his forehand...OMG...he would have been top five!...:) )

I am his friend...so I can kid him...but the story is true. Wayne and Greg Patton (who is a great coach as well)...would be great Ambassadors for tennis.

The coaching staff underneath them is already there if we use it.

Footwork: Jose Higerus
Serve: Pete Sampras
Groundstokes: Landsdorp, Bolletierri
Volley: Brian Gottfried
Overhead: Tom Gorman
Strategy: Pancho Segura (let the children sit at his feet while he watches a match)
Mental Toughness: Alan Fox perhaps Johan Kriek (American citizen)
Return of Serve: Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi
Conditioning: Mr. Gil Reyes
Doubles: Sherwood Stewart, John McEnroe, Bob Lutz
Clay Court Tennis: Harold Solomon

I know we have GREAT coaches throughout the USA...and great facilities.

I believe we also should bring the top juniors from EACH SECTION of the USTA, a team of seven girls and seven boys, to NYC for the US Open to be BALLCREWS from Southern, Texas, PNW, So. Cal, Northern Cal. Let them work the Open as teams...getting the best seat in the house. They would return so fired up you would not have to tell them to practice...they can see for themselves what it takes to make it to the top of the game.

I have other thoughts...and again, love to hear from those who love the game and want to create an environment for our American junior to develop as far as their heart muscle can take them.

Best,

Brian Sidney Parrott
Oregon, now Iowa...:)
www.ATHOF.com

gary said...

Basic economics.... Lower the price and advertise it. That will get an increase in participation. Get a larger pool of athletes playing the sport.

Confusing rights with entitlement said...

Jeez another comment about entitlement. When will all these people stop complaining about the U.S. but take everything they can from it? We live where you can have an opinion without getting executed or punished, and trying to make the system better is American, not entitlement. USTA works with ITF, they can seek change. And ITA and NCAA are not mutually exclusive from USTA, that has never been so evident than recently. That is becoming way too incestuous. There, some understanding.

- said...

As long as the financial barrier to play this sports remains, nothing will change. Not only should USTA invest heavily at the sectional level (reduce staff costs and invest in the youth) but they should absolutely create a sectional approach that prohibits playing out of section unless you earn the right (my daughter is a junior player but also run tracks and per USA junior track, you play a season then start a series of meets where only the top 3 advance . . . local to state to regions to nat'l). This immediately reduces the amount of $ you can spend b/c you can't buy your way to regionals or nationals.

Sponsor the top 10-20% of each section and as much as possible, require them to train together (most private clubs would allow access to courts if the USTA paid for it . . . again, invest). Try to recruit from the other sports where the best athletes are . . . the best athletes do not play tennis in the U.S. Attend some b-ball, football or track events and watch the best kids (would be interesting if you talk to their parents and offer full ride scholarships to try tennis) but, of course, that would bring diversity into the game (economic and racial) and I'm not sure USTA wants that.

This is so frustrating and why we stopped it with our daughter . . . we quit spending $20k+ per year which is common and actually at the low end of the scale . . . there is absolutely no ROI for those economics . . . as a comparison, my daughter runs track nationally and we pay $55 per month for 4x days per week + conditioning . . . that will barely cover 30 min. with a top tennis instructor.

We are done but I hope something changes for the generation behind us.

HHH