Since posting my article on what I'd like to see from USTA Player Development going forward, I've come across several others. This one, from New York magazine, "Ten Ways to Make the Next Great American Tennis Star" provides perspectives from a wide variety of people, including Jeff Tarango, Katerina Stewart, Mats Wilander and others. My esteem for The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.and its author Daniel Coyle, who wrote this perceptive piece on the value of "crummy" facilities, makes No. 3, on the new Lake Nona complex, particularly interesting to me.
Tennis.com's Kamakshi Tandon provides thoughts on Player Development from the Bryan brothers, who spoke after the announcement that Patrick McEnroe was leaving his position as its General Manager. They confirmed their agreement with the above article's suggestion No. 7.
7. Keep Local Coaches Involved
One criticism of the current player development program is that local coaches felt the USTA were poaching talent and removing juniors from environments where they were thriving. “Help the local coach,” Wilander says. “When a coach knows a player that well and you take them away, it’s really dangerous. You should literally try and keep them home as long as possible.”
Here's Mike Bryan:
"I mean, it's tough to hand pick kids and put them in a center and say they're going to all be champions. I think just the best chances are to let the coaches do their jobs."
".... So why not help out those coaches and those programs instead of taking kids out of their comfortable environment and sticking them in a center without their parents and trying to make them pros in an uncomfortable environment—these are formative years [for] teenagers and young adults."
Before there was the firestorm of the recent Junior Competition restructuring, there was another unpopular USTA mandate, 10-and-under Tennis, formerly known as QuickStart. The New York Times recently looked at the program, how and why it was introduced, and the criticism it has faced since. "Saving parents from themselves" probably isn't a goal the USTA should voice publicly, even if they privately view that as one of their roles.
And, although I tweeted a link to this several days ago, I don't think I posted it here. Francis Tiafoe, who has plenty of company as a bright American 16-and-under prospect, is the subject of this Grantland article, which revolves around the interest Jay Z's Roc Nation sports department has in signing him to a professional contract. The article also attempts to explain why Tiafoe is "the world's most famous junior tennis player," and the pressures he faces because of that. Having lived through Donald Young's junior career, I don't see the any good coming from Tiafoe being in this position, and I hope his peers can help deflect some of the attention. But just the fact that this article was written tells me that being famous only engenders more attention, that it's reason enough to put a microscope on a child and his family. I'm not so sure about that.