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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Martin Blackman to Replace Patrick McEnroe as USTA General Manager of Player Development

After a search lasting more than six months, the USTA has announced its replacement for Patrick McEnroe as General Manager of Player Development: Martin Blackman.

The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perotta has the details of Blackman's appointment here.

The USTA has scheduled a conference call with media for tomorrow, which I will participate in, that includes USTA COO and Executive Director Gordon Smith, Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman of the Board and President and a "special guest," which I presume is Blackman. I do not know if he will be in Indian Wells for the Team USA Coaches Reception on Monday.

I haven't seen much of Blackman since he left the USTA in 2011, obviously on amicable terms, to start his own academy in the Boca Raton area, but when he started with the USTA in 2009, I spoke with him for a brief piece I did for SMASH magazine, which I'm including below.  

In the September news conference at the US Open, when it was announced that McEnroe was leaving, Smith and then Chairman and President David Haggerty insisted they were not looking for a major change in the either the position or in Player Development's direction, and the choice of Blackman is an indication of their sincerity on that point.  As Perrotta's article says: 

"Blackman isn't expected to shake up player development’s staff or strategy. Katrina Adams, the USTA’s chairman and chief executive, and Gordon Smith, the USTA’s executive director and chief operating officer, said that they were happy with the program’s current direction and hired Blackman to build on it."

If there is a transcript of tomorrow's conference call, I will post it as soon as it becomes available.

Talent Search: What the USTA Looks For in Aspiring Champions
Martin Blackman joined USTA Player Development as Senior Director for Talent Identification and Development in January. A two-time finalist at Kalamazoo as a junior, a member of two NCAA championship teams while at Stanford University and an ATP professional who reached 158 in the rankings, the 38-year-old Blackman coached American University's men's tennis team from 1999-2004, and prior to joining the USTA served as director of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md.

In his newly created position, Blackman will focus on getting and keeping young players in the sport via the USTA's QuickStart initiative and will be identifying additional USTA Regional Training Centers to add to the two most recently announced—the Junior Tennis Champions Center, and the Racquet Club of the South in Atlanta, Georgia. The USTA's 17 sections will serve as regional networks to identify and encourage outstanding coaches and junior players, "We recognize that there is no one magic way to produce champions," Blackman says. "We can give American juniors the best of three worlds: train near home at a certified USTA Regional Training Center, train at a private academy, or train at the National Training Center in Boca, with National Team coaches."

Blackman and USTA Manager of Coaching Education Anne Pankhurst offer the following list of attributes coaches should look for when assessing 6 to 10-year-olds:

1) Love of the game: if the love is there, the child will enjoy practice

2) Teachability: is the child able to follow instructions given either visually or verbally?

3) Fundamental movement and physical skills: balance, agility and simple and complex coordination, running, and jumping.

4) Basic sports skills: throwing, catching and basic strokes

5) Commitment: the desire to improve


Same USTA….. said...

So Martin Blackman gets hired as General Manager of Player Development when he could not handle the stress and demand of Director of Regional Training Centers in Boca Raton?

Martin Blackman was on the same Stanford team as Patrick McEnroe.

This seems like another odd choice by the USTA.

Junior Development Professional said...

It's pathetic, but predictable, that the USTA went with a classic "USTA insider" who has been very much a part of the broken system that exists today. Part of the problem, so unlikely to provide a solution.

An independent junior development professional in the Midwest that I know told me that he has found Blackman to be as unresponsive, arrogant and as difficult to work with as most of the USTA Player Development crowd.

This instructor called and left a message for Blackman every day for a month and never got a call back. Even the USTA receptionist advised my friend not to bother leaving any additional messages because "he never calls anyone back."

Sounds like we are going to get more of the same. I do like some of Blackman's new comments which are starting to indicate a more open mind, so perhaps there is some hope. However, he may just know what to say, rather than do anything.

Same old insider story. said...

The entire junior world would have liked Wayne Bryan as the head... but the USTA doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Tennis Dad said...

Probably more accurate, the USTA doesn't like someone who does think for him or herself.

And, the USTA would never hire Wayne Bryan because he dared to question and expose them. For that same reason they weren't going to hire Tim Mayotte. They want to keep the monopoly and the power and don't want any scrutiny, questions or accountability.

Tennis Person said...

Tennis Dad: I agree with you 100%

Martin the Man said...

These posts just show the ignorance of the people posting on this thread. Anyone who knows Martin Blackman knows that this hire is going to help reshape how people view player development. This guy will create accountability and work with the private sector to continue to build on the great things that are happening with this new Team USA initiative that PD started.

Why would you want a guy like Tim Mayotte and/or and Wayne Bryan who didn't even coach his sons (anyone knows the true story their mom coached the boys). I heard Wayne Bryan tell a group of coaches at a workshop that Nadal had an extreme forehand grip. This guy has no clue about junior development. American tennis got the best person qualified for this job.

Junior Develolment Professional, pretty funny how you are sharing a 3rd party story. I have called Martin Blackman and emailed him all the time when he was with the USTA. this guy is a consummate professional. Stop trying to spread bad rumors that aren't true.

Same USTA, your statement is just completely false. If you actually knew your head from your a$$ you would know that Martin Blackman has always took everything head on and never backed down from a challenge. He left the USTA in a better place than when he arrived. He was the mastermind of the best USTA innitiative in the last twenty five years.

I am pretty sure the USTA made a great hire because there are only three posts on this thread. All the real tennis professionals who develop players and parents of the best kids know what they are getting with Martin and the overwhelming majority of people know that hey are getting a person who cares about them and who is going to be hands on and 100% dedicated to working with everyone to change the shape of tennis in this country. It would be great for some of the readers to share their positive Blackman stories!

Why Wayne? said...

I can't speak for the foreigners, coaches, or USTA shrills that visit this board ( and that group does't care what is the best interest of all American juniors), but I can speak for AMERICAN PARENTS...
Why do we want Wayne, well he knows and is willing to acknowledge the elephant in the room - there are too many foreigners crowding out Americans in college tennis. Parents are sick and tired of getting no scholarship money and a 21 year old from the Czech Republic getting a better ride.

Cory said...

Please just acknowledge that you work for the USTA, and we would at least listen. " build on the great things that are happening with this new Team USA initiative that PD started. "

Per Tim Mayotte - "after almost two years inside the usta player pd i strongly agree with wayne’s outrage over the misuse of funds and the arrogance of that organization. " said...

Full quote from the interview - "After almost two years inside the usta player pd i strongly agree with wayne’s outrage over the misuse of funds and the arrogance of that organization. when jose h, jay berger and patrick were around (which was very rarely) i tried to put them on court with some of our 8, 9, and 10 year olds. jose flatly said no

clearly out of discomfort. jay shared a court with me and was unable to see even the most basic technical changes needed and patrick would bark words parroted from jose’s thinking like “receive the ball.” that had no relevance in the context of what we were working on with the kids. none of the three asked what we were doing or how we were trying to do it.

i understand wayne’s outrage that this group mandate, forces, others to do what they know nothing about. it is my understanding that none of them have ever been to a 10 and under tournament. when i was hired to start and run the usta at the open site i was told to develop “a pipeline of top young 8-12 year olds.” it became clear they did not know how to teach and train and at that point neither did i. my associate lee hurst was great and as i learned from him we veered from jose’s “philosophy.” when jose visited we were told change to mirror boca.

after months of arguing my need for a different approach i found no option but to leave. the predictable has happened; they terminated that group and now only work with players 14 or over who commit to home school. so hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars and thousands of hours served to only drop players leaving them and parents in the lurch, alienate local pros and deepen the cycle.

it was outrageous then to see patrick on tv broadcasting when he could have been on court learning about jr development (isn’t a million a year enough) or jose ensconced in palm springs with the usta paying to send player to his fancy ranch. its all such a waste.


Tennis Dad said...

That "Martin the Man" post has zero credibility. Cory thinks that it is written by a shill for the USTA, but I actually think Cory is being too kind. I think it's more likely Martin himself or a family member.

For example, I don't even think a shill for the USTA would stoop so low as to write:

"Martin Blackman has always took everything head on and never backed down from a challenge. He left the USTA in a better place than when he arrived. He was the mastermind of the best USTA innitiative in the last twenty five years."

MASTERMIND?! Gee do you think he overstated this just a little bit?

Also, this Martin the Man guy is simply full of crap about Wayne Bryan. First of all, it is a fact that Wayne was the Bryan Brothers coach on the pro tour until they more recently went with David McPherson. Their mother (an excellent player herself) may have helped develop her sons but was never know to be their professional coach on the tour.

And, hey, Martin the Man, Nadal does use an extreme Western grip on the forehand. He is well under the handle and every wise development coach in the world knows this, so if Wayne Bryan said this then he was correct and you are wrong (again).

Finally, notice how Martin the Man asked for everyone to start telling their "positive Martin Blackman stories" but there none forthcoming. Now, that should tell you something.

Having said that, because of what I just now posted, that same poster will now start posting some manufactured stories that he will put on this site under a different identity any second. Let's all now have a chuckle when we see those forced and artificial "stories" come up.

Colette Lewis said...

I highly doubt Blackman had anything to do with that post.

Tennis Person said...

Tennis Dad: Again, I agree with you 100%. I had a kid in USTA PD in Boca during the time Martin Blackman was there. At that time, I didn't even know who Martin Blackman even was - he had nothing to do with my kid nor did he even make himself known to the parents who had kids training in the PD program.

It is clearly obvious that USTA PD is very comfortable with their own, and want no outside influences. No rocking the boat...

Martyn Collins said...

Calling names, making accusations, using pseudonyms. #Bollocks

Martyn Collins said...

Also, I have a $1000 on Nadal's current grip. You published extreme western, ie., palm under the grip. I say Nadal is no more than semi western. I am sure his palm is not under the grip. It's catch up time my man.

Extreme Grip- bahhhaha said...

Marty Collins- my point exactly these guys don't know what they are talking about. A guy who can't identify a grip has no business making comments about who should be running Player Development. Nor should Wayne Bryan be in charge of PD if you can't ID a grip.

Just because Tim Mayotte says something doesn't make it truth. Just because someone supports PD on this website doesn't mAke them from PD. Just because you didn't meet Martin Blackman when your son or daughter was a PD doesn't make him a bad person or unfit to take the position. All you have to read is the quote from Nick B.

You people need to find something better in your life to the on everything these poor people are doing. Be part of the solution not the problem.

Semi western- the grip of Nadal said...

Martyn Collins should bet you a million dollars Tennis Dad - http://tennis.about.com/od/playersmale/ss/photo-tour-male-pro-forehand-grips_2.htm

All you have to do is go on google and you wouldn't have looked like you didn't know a thing about tennis. Oh man your post made my day!! Just shows the lack of knowledge by the people making these posts. Love to hear your response Tennis Dad!!

AJT said...

My .02. Give the guy a chance. While I guess I would have been more happy if they had gone further afield, fresh faces, new perspectives, all that, it's delusional to think that Wayne Bryan was ever in consideration for this.

At the end of the day, they are saying exactly what they are expected to say. Even if Martin plans to go in 180 degree different direction(Which I dont think), of course he's goign to say they are continuing the current direction, building upon, etc. Whatever they decide to do, was there ever any question about how they were going to spin it ?

And, I agree with MartYn, Nadal's grip is basically semi-western. Looking forward to hime playing Jack. Now there's a full western for you.

He's a good guy said...

Before I get painted a USTA insider, I am not. I have despised that good ol' boy network for the last decade. However, the only solid person I met at the top was Martin Blackman, and I was devastated to hear he was out a few years back. I think many will be surprised to find out Martin is a really stand-up guy with new ideas and a different methodology. I always thought "he left" the USTA because he didn't see eye to eye with their system, he just didn't fit. We raised a top 10 player and had great talks with Martin about why our player shouldn't be boarded at Boca or any academy at the time. The guy has kids and understands the support system players need from their families and their personal coaches, which wasn't found at boarding academies inside or outside the USTA. I found Martin to be very in tune with what it takes to raise successful juniors/players and am thrilled to see him take the helm. He is not an inside guy - I believe he will steer the way he sees fit, and I believe he has a good sense of the new direction to take. From my experience, he is a good choice. One request --- please Martin, fix the corruption in the WC system, and good luck!

Tennis Dad said...

@Martyn Collins, Semi-Western, Extreme Grip, and AJT-

You wanted my answer about the grip? Here it is.

You are dead wrong. Nadal’s grip is more extreme than a semi-western.

In fact, even YOUR OWN SOURCE that you are using to support your position says that you are wrong. The about.com website page that you provided for all of us states: “Rafael Nadal uses a 3/4 Western grip, halfway between Semi-Western and Western.” So it states explicitly that he grip is MORE EXTREME than a semi-western grip. Your own source states the opposite of Martyn Collins who just posted: “I say Nadal is no more than semi western. I am sure his palm is not under the grip.”

I also have to say that it is very lame to quote “About.com,” a general information website, for your tennis knowledge. That tells us a lot about the lack of sophistication of your so called tennis expertise.

So, let’s look at what the world’s top tennis videographer, John Yandell, says about Nadal’s grip. John Yandell is the founder and primary videographer of www.tennisplayer.net. He studies strokes in high definition and super slow motion and he is the original expert who was able to measure the number of RPM’s on Nadal’s forehand that the media cites for their authority. On www.tennisplayer.net, Yandell states in his analysis of Nadal’s forehand that Nadal’s forehand grip is more extreme and more Western than any player he has ever filmed:

“with the possible exception of Sebastien Grosjean, who seems about the same. It's more extreme than either Roddick or Hewitt or even Fernando Gonzalez. Those guys are more like 4 /4 s. You can tell how extreme the grip is when you look at the hand at contact. Nadal appears to have most of the palm of his hand under the handle.”

Did you catch the part about the palm being UNDER THE HANDLE?!

Just because you think you see something on TV doesn’t make it so. Your naked eye watching TV cannot compete with slow motion and high definition video filmed by the top expert in the world.

So, Martyn Collins (and all of your “colleagues”) it is YOU who needs to catch-up. YOU are way behind.

Tennis Dad said...


For some reason you didn't post my previous response to you. Hopefully, you will publish it this time.

Thank you for your opinion. You are probably correct that Martin Blackman did not post the "Martin the Man" post because, first of all he is way too old to use such immature language as "Martin the Man" did. Just look at the name the poster used for goodness sake?

I do think that whoever posted it must be a very biased and unabashed fan, because he did claim that Blackman was "mastermind of the best USTA innitiative in the last twenty five years."

Chris T said...

We can only hope Martin Blackman choses his own direction for the sake of US tennis.
But if we have to believe the statement issued by the USTA, it is very unlikely.
"Building on what was started by Patrick McEnroe" is a ridiculous statement; there is nothing to build on!
It basically means they are doubling down on a proven catastrophe.
You only have to look at how things have deteriorated with the player development programs. No one wants to work with the USTA anymore. They all have left the program and have found their own coaches and programs.
Many of the top coaches have left as well, something that has never happened before in the USTA.
There were many candidates for this job of general manager that had more experience and proven background.
Instead they choose again a former board member.
This seems to be a habit over the last 10 years if you think of Gordon Smith (COO), Patrick McEnroe, and now Martin Blackman.
You can hardly call this a coincident. Maybe it was planned all along to be this way?
But the main culprit in this is the board itself.
They have the responsibility to look after the best interest of the USTA and its members.
Well, they are surely only looking after themselves, that is very clear.
I feel sad for US tennis and the future of player development.
I suppose I was hoping for a change, like many others.
With a country this size, we should be doing much better.
But this will not happen if we do not have professional and businesslike people leading this organization.
It will have to get really bad before they make some changes.
I just hope it will not be to late, we already have had a great setback from the last 6 years.
Well congratulations board members and executives, well done!

Fact Finder said...

Chis T- how should we be doing much better? We have 14 women in the top 100 in the world with a player who is the best female to ever play this game at number 1 in the world. Outside of the big four there are only 2 other men who have won a grands lam in the last 10 years. We have close to 30 players in the top 300 (more than any other country). On the Jr side we have 4 girls in the top 20 of the ITF, the youngest girl to win a pro circuit and to have a professional ranking (Claire Liu), and 14 girls top 100 in the world. We have 8-10 boys who are on track to reach top 100 in the world- Jared Donaldson, Noah Rubin, Deaton Baughman, Tommy Paul, Reily Opelka, Stefan Kozlov, Francis Tiafoe, Michael Mho, William Blumberg, John McNally, Nathan Ponwith, do you want me to keep listing....

The problem we have in this country are people like Tennis Dad who don't know what they are talking about. I once sat and listened to Roger Federer talk about grips and he said when asked what his grip was, he replied, "what shot am I hitting from what part of the court?" To keep things simple for Tennis Dad, because we know he needs simple, is the best players in the world change their grips depending on what shot they are hitting. I agree with all the other writers that he is nowhere near extreme western. I just looked at YouTube and stil shits and his knuckles are on top of the handle. Jack Sock like one writer said is probably the most extreme grip on tour. His knuckles are under the handle (tennis dad this is simple USPTA stuff).

As for Martin Blackman, let me share a story. I want to preface I am not a USTA INSIDER, Tennis Dad! Once I called Martin up when he was with the USTA and told him about a player I hd training in the Southern section. He first off asked how could he could help. I told him that the player didn't have money to travel to certain events. He then proceeded to provide my player, with two travel grants to help get that player to the events, as well as the number of two other players who were going with coaches so my player could help cut costs and travel with them. This guy is thoughtful and caring and he has a plan.

Just fyi I learned that Player development is not in charge of Jr Comp. This guy Bill Mountford is in charge of the system. He is the guy people should be blaming for WC.

I think he is going to make a difference. But first and foremost his going to listen. I can't think of anyone else they could have hired to continue moving American tennis in the right direction.

Betty White said...

Sounds like someone needs a "Snickers" :)

Betty White ain't even extreme western said...

Betty White- that could be the best comment of all time. Tennis Dad lets get you a snickers......and by the way Tennis Dad, Nadal is semi-western. With what you are saying, if Nadal is an extreme western then Federer is full western. And I don't think he is even close to western!!! Anyone with any tennis knowledge knows that Nadal is not anywhere near extreme western.

Chris T said...

Fact Finder,
The article was about finding a general manager and the results were just a part of it.
You are correct, the women's side has rebounded, and there are some potential young players, but they are not toppers yet and we have to see how many become top players.
On the men side we are weak to say the least.
There is a middle group that is coming on now, but they are not so young any more.
The results you mentioned are pretty recent and they have little or none to do with Player Development.
A lot of those you mentioned have left the player development, have private coaches, or the USTA still tries to take credit for their results.
And what about all the programs that have been destroyed, like the Boca training program?
And by the way, the programs in LA and NY also used to run much better.
There are many ways to do better in the US.
What is there to show for the past 6 years.
We are a far cry from where the US used to be in dominating the ITF and pro circuits.
But there are other things then just results of players. How should we do better?:
We are running ever further behind with other grand slam countries in building infrastructures of regional and sectional training sites.
The coaching education is not comparable to other countries in Europe, and Australia and the training of our top coaches is falling behind.
Our national coaches are inexperienced and not well trained to deal with coaching and communication.
The competitive system is still too complicated and to costly and we are loosing a lot of our talents.
Many of our top talents are working privately and obviously are not happy with the coaching or attitude of the USTA.
The US tennis culture is hurting and not many believe in the USTA any more.
The effort to change the developmental and competitive culture to clay courts is not only illogical but also inconsistent with our main tournaments: Indian Wells, Miami, west swing leading up to our main event the US Open.
Do I need to go on?

Shawn said...

So, $140 million dollars ( staggering, right) is spent on a couple of players, and what does the USTA have to show on the mens side, NADA.
Guess, lining your pockets with cash only helps yourself.

Well, now I know why Tim didn't get the job said...

it was outrageous then to see patrick on tv broadcasting when he could have been on court learning about jr development (isn’t a million a year enough) or jose ensconced in palm springs with the usta paying to send player to his fancy ranch. its all such a waste.

Cory said...

Let's take a vote. Orlando training center or give money to private coaches and to top 800 players losing money every week at futures.

Tennis Dad said...

@Fact Finder

The name you're using clearly isn't accurate because you are ignoring obvious facts.

You can try to attack me all you want about Nadal's grip, but that won't make you any less wrong. And you really need to also attack John Yandell and virtually the entire college of top tennis instructors and experts who say that you are wrong.

Anyone that knows anything about tennis knows that virtually all of the male players on the tour these days use at least a semi-western grip. So, for you and all your cohorts to keep dreaming that Nadal's grip is no more Western than all those players indicates that you're living in a fantasy world. His grip is more western than semi-western period. That's a fact. Re-read what John Yandell and even the about.com article introduced by your friends said.

Or you can keep your head in the sand.

And those "Snickers" comments are so immature that they don't warrant a response. You should be embarrassed.

@Colette I would appreciate it if you would post my comments especially when you are posting all these numerous silly attacks, including the incredibly stupid Snickers comments.

Colette Lewis said...

@Tennis Dad:
I've posted every comment from you that I have received.

Still not Martin said...

I think we've uncovered what's wrong with American tennis! Hint: it's people like Tennis Dad

Observer said...

I think an interesting angle to follow with Martin Blackman being hired as the new USTA GM of Player Development is if he chooses to make any changes in regards to personnel. Anytime you bring in a brand new CEO, they are usually more inclined to clean house and bring in "their own people" persay. With Martin having worked there recently and having so many ties many of the current employees (in particular Higueras, Berger, and many of the other national coaches) it will be interesting to see what he decides to in regards to how he wants to shape the personnel department.

Tennis Dad said...

@still not martin

Nope, it's people like you who are not only what's wrong with American tennis, but with America. Ignorant, immature, illogical, name callers with no thought behind it.

I know that you will now change your name for your next post for the 7th time. But, you don't fool me. You are obviously the same very immature uneducated person who has used about 7 different names over the past 3 days. You can tell by the lack of maturity and lack of quality of the content. Same inane name calling aspect to every post, trying and succeeding in being annoying and repeating the same thing about the grip. You're very consistent in all these aspects. I will call you "Poster X" from now on and will wait for your next silly attack against me. Looking forward to the next name that you will use when you attack me the next time.

Betty White said...

For all those tennis fans on a plant based diet…and a "Snickers" is out of the question…How about a Nice Group Hug…:)