Chris Clarey has written an article in today's New York Times focusing on the challenges facing Patrick McEnroe's successor as head of player development. Clarey's primary theme centers on how little McEnroe knew about the demands and requirements of the position when he took it, and advocates for someone who won't need to go through such a steep learning curve. Clarey does not touch on what I think may be the most significant obstacle to an effective General Manager of Player Development, the governing structure of the USTA itself. With he or she reporting to not only the USTA chairman, CEO and president, a volunteer who serves one two-year term, as well as the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, currently Gordon Smith, and the volunteer board of directors, the ability to actual implement a long term plan over a reasonable amount of time seems impossible. And it may be why many of those most qualified for the position are not interested in taking it.
"One thing we’ve done in Australia is abolishing all the committees. In the USTA, everyone has to have a voice and there’s such an incredible amount of committees, and reporting to committees, you get inhibited by having to constantly justify what you’re doing or report on what you’re doing. I think it would be much more appropriate to have action the whole time on what you’re doing. That wasn’t the reason I came to Australia, but it’s a significant opportunity that Australia has in comparison to the USTA."
That's an old quote, and maybe there are committees at Tennis Australia now, but, as anyone who lived through the recent junior competition restructuring can tell you, nothing has changed at the USTA, with committees still having a major influence on any policy change advocated by the chairman/president.
For some historical context, here is the article Doug Robson wrote for USA Today about the USTA's change in player development direction, with its own academy and private coaching, when Patrick McEnroe took the job back in 2008.
I am still working on my assessment of the past years in Player Development and what can be improved, but several prominent player development coaches have already done that.
Parenting Aces has posted a Craig Cignarelli article that previously appeared on 10sBalls.com, focusing on the kind of person needed in that job. I can't speak for Craig, but I don't think he'd be happy with a Craig Tiley type, who is definitely a "leader", not a "representative." But after seeing the USTA's role in the college format changes, the junior competition structure changes and the 10-and-under-tennis rollout, it's certainly understandable to want a person who listens first and takes action later.
And Tom Walker, who is a top junior development coach from here in Kalamazoo (now in Lansing) and has been vocal in his opposition to the junior competition changes since their inception, has provided a specific blueprint for what needs to happen to restore a viable USTA junior competition structure. That too can be found Parenting Aces.
I received an email last night from a junior development coach that he has given me permission to use. I welcome any other accounts or suggestions, which can be sent to clewis[at]zootennis.com or posted in the comments section below.