Thursday, May 28, 2020

Young, Wright Talk Community Connection During UTR's Virtual Coaches Conference; ITF Features Former Memphis Star Salisbury; ITA's NAIA National Award Winners; Broward College Dropping All Athletics?

With UTR's All Access series winding down, this week's highlight was a two-day Virtual Coaches Conference. I didn't promote it, as it was restricted to coaches (and media, I guess, because I was allowed to register) but it did resemble an ITA Coaches Convention, with a number of different aspects of tennis coaching addressed throughout the dozen or more hours of webinars. Although the in-person interaction that makes most conferences so valuable was obviously missing, having moderated discussions about the game is more than welcome in our current isolated environment.

Yesterday I was able to catch some of the session with Vanderbilt women's head coach Geoff Macdonald and associate head coach Aleke Tsoubanos, and the session with Florida' men's head coach Bryan Shelton and well-known junior development coach Bill Tym.  Today I listened to Mark Kovacs provide his list of Common Misconceptions about Fitness in Tennis and I tuned in to most of the afternoon session with Peter Wright, men's head coach at Cal, and Chris Young, women's head coach at Oklahoma State entitled Community Building & Fundraising. With the nearly daily announcements of cutbacks due to the financial damage inflicted by the pandemic, this session seemed particularly relevant, and both Young and Wright were able to provide a lot of good advice for attracting donors and fans.

Many of comments that have been made recently on this site focus on the large number of international players who make up the rosters of programs that have been cut. Both Young and Wright have many such players on their teams, and Young asked Wright about that objection.

"One question we had in the chat that you touched on is, how do our donors and supporters respond to non-US, foreign players? Do you feel that makes it a challenge in fund-raising if you have a team that has a lot of international players," Young said.

"I think there is some built-in bias," Wright said. "If a guy's foreign, ah, a foreigner, so it's us and them a little bit. Most of the coaches around the country have a few foreign players on their team. What happens is the better connections you have the more people realize that this guy from England or Japan or Australia is a great guy and is really contributing a lot and he's smart and he's working hard. He's here to play tennis and get an education. You break down those barriers. A lot of that is just built-in bias, but you get a chance to break that down the more you can train your guys to be great ambassadors for your program and be in the community, just as you are....We have ball kids at our matches, from the local country club, and the kids get to know our players, and they don't have those built-in biases and they go, hey, Philippe, he's a great guy, I love him..."

Wright went on to talk about how powerful that connection can be whether it is with a ball kid or a millionaire.

"My CFO said hey, Pete, we don't have enough money for you to be giving out T-shirts, giving out hats. And I looked at him and said, we don't have enough money to not be doing that. One little secret I have, where I keep all of our equipment, a little equipment room and I call it the Promised Land. And when I have a donor come on, any time, on the property, I will take them to the Promised Land, and I am not kidding you, we have people who have hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and they're like children in a candy store when you take them to the Promised Land and give them a little quarter-zip top from the tennis team. It's one of the best things you can possibly do. You don't tie it to any donation, and as Chris said, we don't say thank you enough and we try to say it at every opportunity we can...and we've got to look for those opportunities."

The ITF has published a feature on former Memphis star Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, who won the Australian Open men's doubles title this year with Rajeev Ram. Salisbury talks about how he's handled the long layoff, how he is approaching his recent return to the courts, why he decided to pursue doubles rather than singles, what he's reading, and much more.

Chase Hodges, coach of men's and women's teams at Georgia Gwinnett
The ITA's virtual National Awards Ceremony for NAIA was streamed today, with the winners listed below. As you can see, Georgia Gwinnett dominated both the men's and women's awards to the extent not seen in any other of the divisions. The final YouTube ceremony, for Junior College awards, is Friday.


Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship: Franco Poi, Southwestern College
ITA Player to Watch: Luke Simkiss, Keiser University
ITA Rookie of the Year: Max Bertimon, Georgia Gwinnett
ITA Most Improved Senior: Mika Kosonen, Georgia Gwinnett
ITA Senior Player of the Year: Federico Herrera Duran, Georgia Gwinnett

NAIA Women:

Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship: Cade Pierson, Westmont College
ITA Player to Watch: Tereza Koplova, Georgia Gwinnett
ITA Rookie of the Year: Selina Pichler, Georgia Gwinnett
ITA Most Improved Senior: Emerald Able, Georgia Gwinnett
ITA Senior Player of the Year: Madeline Bosnjak, Georgia Gwinnett

A friend of mine in Florida, sent me this Miami Herald article about the recent decision that Broward College, a Florida school that competes in junior college athletics, is planning to eliminate all its athletic programs in the wake of the pandemic. Broward currently sponsors eight sports, including women's tennis.


Jon King said...

No one doubts these foreign players are "good guys". And no one would have any problem if it was "a few" on a roster. I doubt any of us would blink an eye if a roster of 8 had 1-2-3 guys from other countries.

But the facts presented in the comments are concerning rosters that are 8 out of 8 or 7 out of 8 or 6 out of eight. It is simply very hard to defend. Our closest local college Florida Atlantic is another all foreign roster. Its just not right for a coach not to be able to find a way to at least have half the roster US boys.

GO OWLS! said...

Florida Atlantic has 4 USA Players, 6 Overseas Players listed on their 2019-2020 Roster.

Max Ho said...

I have always felt there should be a max number of non American born players in college tennis (European teams have max's for foreign born players in basketball). Obviously some US college locations are more attractive to top American players, so a coach at a less desirable school can recruit better foreign players than they could attract from the US juniors.

If you had less foreign born players due to a quota system there would be more scholarships available for US born players who are not able to play college tennis which would be great for US juniors but would lower the level of play for college tennis. I am not sure if this matters, only the best foreign players would receive scholarships and colleges would have to fill out teams and develop US born players.
Colleges have no mandate to develop US players, the NCAA is not affiliated with the USTA. We see the University of California schools taking more and more foreign and out of state students (non athlete) over in state because they receive more tuition.

Why do college coaches recruit foreign born players at such a high rate?
- After the top 150 US players in each class there is not enough talent?
- American juniors are entitled and don't work hard once they are in college?
- Is it easier to recruit foreign born players through agencies than recruiting US players and having to actually go to tournaments and watch them play?
- The junior development system is better in other countries?
- Foreign born players are happy to have the scholarship and thus have better attitudes?

Jon King said...

Oops a typo. Our local college is Palm Beach Atlantic. I accidentally typed Florida instead.

The roster of Palm Beach Atlantic, and they are nice guys as we know several of them, is 100% non US. But the student body and other sports rosters do not reflect that the men's tennis team should have no US guys on it.


Jon King said...

Max Ho, the coaches I know recruit the players that can help them win and keep their jobs. I have heard all sorts of reasons through the years, And you pretty much nailed all of them. We have used some of these foreign guys as hitting partners for junior players and they seem to be a year or 2 older and more mature than the US players in the same college graduation classes.

I agree there should have been a quota, by the NCAA or by the college administration. The coaches are just using the broken lack of rules that exists. The American system allows for competitive college tennis to exist, yet the coaches are allowed to recruit 100% non US players to fill the team. Can't blame the coaches for taking advantage of the system if it has no checks and balances.

However, these same coaches can not blame the administration for cancelling the program either. Why would very many of the general public or other students at the school care if a tennis program is cancelled that has zero or only 1 or 2 American players on the team?

But it was a great deal for the college coaches and a great deal for the foreign players, thats for sure.