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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

USTA Player Development Update

I am way behind on USTA Player Development news, due to the Australian Open, Les Petits As, Midland and the Women's Team Indoor.

The successor to USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe has not yet been named, but the subject surfaced again this week when it was announced that James Blake had been named chairman of the USTA Foundation's Board of Directors.  The 35-year-old Blake, who retired from professional tennis in 2013, was considered a front runner for McEnroe's position, and although I've been told this appointment doesn't necessarily rule him out, it could indicate the USTA is still actively considering other candidates.

I received this statement yesterday from Chris Widmaier, the USTA's Managing Director of Corporate Communications regarding the timeline for filling the position.

...the USTA is still in the search phase for our new General Manager of Player Development.  Quite a number of potential candidates have been identified and have been interviewed to date.  Our top priority is securing the best candidate for the position and therefore have not set a strict deadline to conclude the search.

In addition to Blake and current USTA Lead National Coach Tom Gullikson, others mentioned as possibilities have included Martin Blackman, Paul Annacone and Craig Tiley.  With Annacone recently accepting a consulting position for Tennis Australia, he would appear to have been eliminated from consideration, and Tiley would be unlikely to take the job that he turned down once before, primarily due to the structure of the USTA, which hasn't changed. 

Blackman, who worked as the USTA's first Director of Talent Identification and Development, but left to start his own academy in Boca Raton several years ago, is mentioned as a candidate in this USA Today article that ran during the Australian Open, as is US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez. 

Back in September, the USTA provided no timetable for replacing McEnroe and it was certainly not going to happen before Katrina Adams assumed the presidency in January.  The number of interviews suggests that the USTA does believe the job description has changed and that the inclusiveness theme they've developed should also be evident in their search. 

From the article:

"We've learned a lot" about the position, says Gordon Smith, the USTA's executive director and chief operating officer. "No one has all the answers in player development. We need to be a part of team USA."

He adds: "The (candidate) needs to have credibility in the coaching world and needs to be a leader. For us, it's a broad, inclusive approach to player development in our country."

Chris Evert, who apparently is not a candidate, says, again quoting from the USA Today article:

"It's always been a sort of interesting and complicated issue with what the USTA and what the coaches' roles are," says Chris Evert, whose Florida-based academy has leased space to the USTA for training purposes. "If a player has their own coach … the USTA would give very little financial help, but as soon as they went with player development, the USTA supported them fully. I think they are trying to address that more and more. It shouldn't be if you're not with us, you're not going to get a full ride."

One initiative Player Development has undertaken is, as Smith alluded to in the above quote, Team USA, which seeks better communication and outreach with private coaches, parents and players. In addition to conferences and forums, a quarterly webinar has been established, where those invited can listen to the USTA PD staff and submit questions.  Late last month, Lisa Stone posted the program's update on her Parenting Aces blog. Coaches' stipends, reestablishment of the Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, a National Coaches Commission and matching players with their coaches via Tennis Link, are among the items mentioned in the update.

Another webinar is scheduled for late next month I believe, so if you receive an invitation, take advantage of the opportunity to connect with the USTA.

One more item I need to pass along is that Jay Gooding, who is still listed as being on the Player Development Staff, has left to coach Louisa Chirico privately. They had worked together with the USTA before she turned pro.


TennisOpinions said...

I think Andy Brandi or Gullickson for PD. Both proven...both down to earth, approachable guys. Andy values college tennis because he coached it at the highest level...he would see the big picture in it all. Who else do you think?