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Friday, February 3, 2012

Wayne Bryan Responds to My Response to His USTA Letter

I received an email from Wayne Bryan today, responding to my post on Wednesday discussing his letter to the USTA. I have no interest in continuing this debate, because I believe we have a fundamental disagreement on the role of a tennis federation, and no amount of back and forth is going to change that.

One item I do want to clear up is his implication that I work for the USTA due to my email address. Back when I was the website chair for the Kalamazoo tournament's ustaboys.com, I received an email address from them, which I still use. The Kalamazoo website is not affiliated with the USTA in anyway--it is privately contracted and paid for by the Kalamazoo tournament, as is the domain name. Again, I wrote for the USTA, under a freelance arrangement, while I was at the NCAAs and at Kalamazoo in 2011. That is the extent of my professional affiliation with them.

Bryan's responses are interspersed with my original article and I have formatted them in bold italics to set them apart. I made a few spelling and punctuation corrections for clarity's sake.

As you may gather, I once gave Wayne a ride to a tennis conference I was covering. I doubt our paths will cross anytime soon, but if they do, I intend to take him up on his offer of lunch.

Again, if you wish to comment on issues he raises in this post, please use a name. Anonymous comments will not be published.

A couple of weeks ago, an undated letter by Wayne Bryan found its way to Facebook and then out to the Tennis-Prose website, generating a lot of attention in the junior and college tennis communities. Yes, that letter went sorta viral didn't it? I regularly correspond with tour coaches, college coaches, club pros, high school coaches, public parks coaches, and parents of juniors. Even lots of juniors themselves. I always enjoy these exchanges just like I enjoy my talks. In fact, I was in chilly Chicago speaking last week and I find myself getting ready to do another speech in cold Detroit today. I need to get a new agent!

At the time, I sent out the link via twitter, promising a response, but I needed time to think about it and then time to write about it, which I didn’t have with the Plaza Cup, Australian Open, Les Petits As and ITA Kickoff Weekend the past couple of weeks.

Because Bryan’s letter is very long and tends to go off in several directions at once (there are multiple 1)s, 2)s etc. rather than consecutively numbered items) Ha. Ha. I'm sorry I didn't use proper outline form, but again it was simply an e mail back to a coach that was asking some questions and I was informally responding to them, it’s difficult to know where to begin my comments, but I’ll start at the top, after a couple of disclosures.

I know Wayne Bryan better than he knows me, having covered many of his clinics, demonstrations, and presentations at junior tournaments and conferences over the past eight years. Thanks for covering them and listening. I hope I was entertaining, educational, inspiration and motivational. He loves tennis Yes and I love what it can do for juniors and adults. It is the best sport you can play for so, so many reasons and it is the wonderful and healthy teacher of life lessonsand is a lot of fun to be around at these events Thanks very much! , and his humor comes through in this letter as well. Thanks for seeing that. Always a little tough in just reading an e mail to catch the humor, eh. Fun and Humor are aspects of coaching and teaching and mentoring and parenting that I think are crucial and too often overlooked.

I have no knowledge of his private coaching background and whether he still is involved in developing young players. Still on a tennis court most every day of my life and am on the road most of the year. I will be coaching the Sacramento Caps of World Team Tennis for my 11th season and have been named WTT Coach of the Year three times. I was named the USPTR Coach of the Year a couple of years ago. And am receiving not one, but three tennis awards this very month. I am way, way down at the bottom of the food chain of coaches, but I can coach a little bit and my twin boys play a little tennis as well.

In the past year, I’ve had assignments for usta.com, covering both the NCAA and Kalamazoo tournaments for them. I, on the other hand, do not work for the USTA. That doesn’t make me an employee, but I suppose it could be seen as a conflict. Yes. In fact, I notice you even have USTA on your e mail address. More important in the context of this response is that I know many people on the current USTA Player Development staff and consider several of them friends, not just sources or contacts. I also count most all of the USTA PD Staff as personal friends and I have had that same kind of relationships with most all the USTA PD Coaches these past 23 years. I have seen many, many come and go.

Much of what Bryan advocates, especially the “Get rid of USTA Player Development altogether,” is not just unrealistic It is not unrealistic at all. I would humbly submit that is very rational. It is simple. Most of the past 100 years in the United States we did not have Player Development. We have had hundreds of wonderful American Champions over the past century. None of them came up through USTA Player Development. In fact, my I be so bold as to say most, if not all, would have chaffed at being under the yoke of USTA PD. Jimmy Connors. John McEnroe. Pancho Gonzales. Billie Jean King. Chris Evert. Jennifer Capriati. Andy Roddick. Venus Williams. Serena Williams. but inflammatory. "Inflammatory" for stating something that is very obvious to me and so many great coaches and parents across this country. It minimizes the passion, work ethic and dedication of these USTA employees Not at all. I question the top down, authoritarian system. I find no fault with the USTA PD coaches today or in any of the regimes that have come and gone - - - one after another who, after all, want the same thing Wayne Bryan wants: American tennis players at the sport’s highest level. We may certainly all share that goal, but I have seen too, too much of what this system has produced in this country over the past two decades. Why did that e mail go viral? The message resonates. It has nothing to do with Coach Bryan. It is the message. I wrote what many are fearful to say. That are afraid of USTA backlash - - - either real or imagined. Well over half of the e mails I get each day - - - and I get a lot - - - say please do not let anyone know that I feel this way, because I don't want my view to be used against my son or daughter. I don't really have a problem with speaking the truth to power. I say the emperor has no clothes.

The writers below express it pretty well and I do not find their comments "unrealistic" or "inflammatory" at all. It think they are right on the nose with their comments:

"The lack of top players was in part due to administrators micro-managing the talent by assigning coaches to players rather than letting them choose their own development paths. There’s no evidence that more dollars are going to help the game anyway, otherwise Great Britain would have many more players than they have. You’ve got a situation here where coaches are assigned to players and that’s not an ideal scenario. I just believe in a different philosophy where the player gets to choose their own coach and that builds the trust and respect and that should be supported financially and in non-financial ways. I think a much more decentralized system and a system that has more freedom in it is the sort of environment where talent and creativity can flourish. I think the model we have now suppresses creativity, which you need to produce players.” Paul McNamee

"One of the things I haven’t read in the last few emails, is the relationship with a private coach. It takes years to build that trust between coach and player, it takes years for a good coach to not only impart wisdom, but to truly make their student believe in themselves. Admittedly I might not be the best or most technical coach out there, but given time, I can make a player believe they can be a world beater. To me the heart and soul is what’s missing in the PD program, not the expertise. Being one of those coaches who has had “promising juniors” swept away from them, I have seen that over and over through the years. Often, the players do not improve much and some go the other direction. This is something that most of us just shake our heads at." Bob Hochstadter

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of great coaches and people out there teaching tennis that really want to do the right thing. We need always to keep the coaches empowered and believing that their own ideas and initiative are embraced." Chuck Kriese

"And, I will add one last comment to this thought about the USTA trying to control/be involved with tennis player development: NO OTHER SPORT DOES THIS! AYSO soccer doesn't try to govern how soccer coaches develop in the private sector; Football – NO, Baseball – NO, Basketball – NO. Not even FIFA, which could be considered one of the most powerful sport organizations in the world doesn't get involved in player development – they let the professional soccer clubs develop their own talent from age 4 on up to pro level in each clubs own system." Chris Boyer

"I think over the past 23 years, that is what the various and ever changing USTA Player Development regimes have done in perhaps an unintended - - - or maybe an intended way - - - the have emasculated all the local pros and coaches and parents across the US. They say in one form or fashion, "You can't coach these kids to the top. Only we can. Send them to us here at Key Biscayne or Carson - - - or now at Boca. We'll train them and raise them.." Or "Hey, we are taking over now." It chills the rank and file coaches across this country. And it has never worked as they do not have one single player to show for it. They'll try like hell to claim or put their USTA stamp on a player, but everyone sees that for what it is - - - cherry pickin'." Wayne Bryan

That said, the USTA is for all intents and purposes a monopoly—the equivalent of the US Postal Service And how's that US Postal Service working for you? How's their operating in the red working for you while UPS and FED EX are profitable before UPS and Federal Express (and email) began competing with it. Monopolies are usually big, sprawling organizations with little incentive to listen, Bingo. although the volunteer nature of the USTA board of directors does add an unusual twist to this analogy. Most coaches and parents feel unable to voice their opinions to the USTA, no doubt feeling such candor may cost their child a grant, a wild card or a camp invitation. I expressed the same thing above. In all my years in tennis, I have never seen it so bad as it is now. Or, they simply don't know who in the organization would be appropriate to contact with their concerns. Believe me, it is the former.

Wayne Bryan doesn’t have to worry about the ramifications of his opinions I certainly take my hits from the USTA and from one Colette Lewis and by speaking his mind has given everyone who cares about American tennis a catalyst to explore ways to improve it, and the questions he poses at the end are a very good place to start. I certainly hope so. You cannot find a person in this country who cares more about this great sport than I do. One who believes in what it can do for juniors and adults.

Why was I in Chicago speaking last week? Why am in the chilly Motor City doing talks this weekend? Why will I be going to Miami, then Santa Barbara, then Westwood, Montgomery, La Quinta, Indian Wells, and Miami - - - all in the next five weeks? My dear great pal and best driver I ever had, Colette, I do think and worry about the ramifications of my opinions. I do want to get kids up off the sofa and away from video games and MTV. I want them to play our great sport. With more kids playing tennis in the US, our country would be a better place. I am a nut who thinks that more tennis worldwide could even be a driving force for world peace. But I must be careful here so as not to be criticized by you for "going off in several directions at once".

I suggest you open the letter in a separate browser window, so my comments can be seen and followed in the context of what he’s written. I don't have the techno pop to be able to do that sad to say.

Beginning where he begins, with 10-and-under tennis, I can’t say I disagree with his objection to the unilateral, top-down, this-is-the-way-it-will-be approach. One solution I heard that I think would have been more palatable would be one, just one, national 10-and-under tournament with full court and regular balls, with the remainder the new format. That makes no sense at all to me or the many, many coaches and parents and kids that are sickened by the removal of regular tennis for U10s.

Bryan later suggests a free market approach to all the 10-and-under events, which is intriguing, if a little optimistic in its projections, but initially he goes on and on about starting kids earlier than 10, which isn’t an issue. Why have a multi million dollar ad campaign saying 10s. Why oh why did they not say 6s. Like with soccer, T ball, swimming, gymnastics, music and dance?! They missed Jump Street by 4 years. Big mistake. No one is advocating having kids wait until they are 8 or 10 before they pick up a racquet, although there is almost universal agreement that other sports should be part of a child’s recreation options until they are at least 12, a balance he, more than anyone, would be expected to advocate. Read my book to understand my position on Primary Passion and Secondary Passion. And I say kick the soccer ball, hit the baseball, shoot the basketball, swim in the pool - - - but get after the great game of tennis with all your heart and soul. That is me. That is lots of other coaches and parents. That may not be you, that may not be others. But those that do and who are out there on the courts playing for fun and with passion at age 5 and 6 want to compete with other kids that are doing the same and they want to be hitting regular tennis balls at 8, 9 and 10 and maybe even 6 and 7. Don't drop a Mandate bomb on these kids and say they can no longer play with a regular tennis ball until they are 11 and 12 years old. Dual approach. Have all the colored soft ball tournaments you want in U6, U 8 and U10, just don't eliminate regular tennis for 10s. Create, don't eliminate! Why has U10 tennis dropped off dramatically this year? Duh. The green ball mandate!! Unintended consequence. Ill conceived. No empirical data. No getting out on the tennis trails and listening to top coaches, parents and juniors.

As far as ad campaigns, I’m always interested in seeing the visibility of the sport increased, and if Bryan has studies and numbers showing advertising isn’t effective for sports and entertainment, tennis wouldn’t be the only entity eager to see them. The Lakers aren't sold out every night because of ads. They do not even advertise. For years the Clippers advertised each and every day in the paper and the stands were never full. No one comes to the US Open because of ads, they come to see that sparkling and exciting tennis. The Stones don't sell out because of ads. Barbara Streisand or Elvis or the Beatles didn't pack 'em in because of ads. You can have the greatest ad campaign of all time and if the movie is crummy there will be no one in the seats. I'm a coach and not an ad exec but that's my take. I am not an expert on statistical demographics.

You want tennis to grow - - - it all comes down to that local tennis community - - - the parents, the coaches, the programs. Ads won't ever drive tennis in this country and it won't drive champions. USTA PD sure won't drive it either. They never have, they never will. Reread those five quotes above.

I agree it would be ideal if all the USTA Player Development coaches had children who excelled at tennis the way his sons have. But if those children have other interests, I don’t see how that makes their parents incapable of being good tennis coaches. 100% agree. I just have difficulty listening to coaches pontificate to me that have not produced players. Lotsa players. And I have trouble have insightful discussions with coaches that have not been able to pass on their passion for our great sport to the children that live under their same roof. Let me be very clear, I find no fault with them and I do not criticize them - - - I just choose to not want to have them mandate to us about how and when the game can and should be played. I and many, many others resist requirements from them without any proof. Without any empirical data. Motivating and inspiring youngsters is at the very core of Coaching. Teaching. Mentoring. Parenting. To me, the greatest coaches of all time - - - whatever the sport - - - have had those essential ingredient. And the very best make it fun, exciting, and with lots of other kids around and in the program too. They know how to make tennis a lifestyle - - - not just a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo that may or may not be the way go.

I’m no fan of committees, or even chain-of-command, which is why owning and operating my own website is a perfect second career for me. Craig Tiley, now tournament director of the Australian Open, didn’t take the USTA Player Development position that eventually went to Patrick McEnroe partly because he felt the USTA committee structure made decision-making too cumbersome. I'm a long time pal and fan of Craig Tiley. And by the way, he won the NCAAs at Illinois and he did it with American players. He is a coach. He is a winner. But what is the alternative to a committee? Is it a vote of every USTA member? The Board of Directors? Every section’s employees? A poll? A focus group? One strong voice of authority? If this is a structural problem with the USTA, how do we fix it? I am not a politician, I am just a simple tennis coach. I will leave that to you. But if we use Committees we must make sure they are loaded with knowledgeable people when it comes to the Competition Committee. The USTA should be the Main Frame computer and make sure the tournament structure and ranking system are fair. Even handed. Open to all. Again, I say, the USTA has no business in coaching. That should be left to the private sector.
Look at all the international tennis stars that have come to this country at the age of 9 or 10 and worked with our American coaches in the private sector and gone on to greatness on the tour: Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Victoria Azarenka, Tommy Haas, and Dmitry Tursunov to name but a few. None of them were part of our USTA PD program. I would submit that is why they had success. They would not have thrived in the PD program. Rafa Nadal was not part of the Spanish Player Development system. All Uncle Tony with an assist from Carlos Moya. Roger Federer Swiss National system. No way. Novak. Nope. Andy Murray part of the English National PD Program. No way. Andy Roddick? I never want to put words in anyones mouth - - - just ask his family what they think of USTA PD sometime.

I’m sorry I can’t feel Bryan’s outrage for the little boy who now can’t reach his goal of being No. 1 in the South in the 10s. I feel it for him and so, so many other kids in the 10s who will not be able to compete against their peers. They have to make the ridiculous choice of playing with a soft green ball or up in the 12s a precisely the wrong time. I'm a coach. I'm a Dad. I know what that pain must feel like. This situation makes me sick because I feel for that little guy and I feel for his coach and his parents. And so many others across this country. I guess I’ve been brainwashed by all the coaches who have told me the goal is to keep improving, that rankings are irrelevant in the younger age divisions. While you were writing USTA articles, Colette, I have been coaching so, so many youngsters through the years - - - many to #1 rankings in SoCal 10s, some to #1 rankings in the US, some to #1 slots on D1 college teams, some to NCAA Team and individual championships. some on the tour - - - and I can tell you - - - each one was driven by the desire to get a good and high rankings. Without any apology whatsoever. I can tell you that college players are the same and so are pro players. Ask Roger if he likes being #3. Ask Novak if he likes being #1. Ask the Bryan Bros. if they liked being #1 in the Juniors or being on the #1 College Team. Or if they like having been #1 in the world in doubles seven times. It is a huge, huge, huge motivator. So are trophies. So are being on free lists for rackets or clothes and shoes and sunglasses. So are titles. So are checks.

That is not to say you don't want to strive to get better, but programming drives playing. You got a big gig coming up, the band rehearses and gets tight and wants to sound good. You got a big tournament coming up, you want to practice long and hard - - - and have fun the whole time - - - getting ready for it. You are #7 in the SoCal Juniors you wanna be #5. You are #2, you wanna be #1.

Now, Colette, you may have players that are not motivated and driven by trophies and rankings and all the goodies, I just have not had a single one. But note: I am not mandating to you. Do it your way and I'll do it mine. Don't mess with our U10 ranking system and tournament system, unless you have broad based support and moving van loads of empirical data. The USTA does not. Period.

If they had broad based support my e mail would not have gone viral. The message is driving that e mail, not the writer.

But if playing up isn’t truly viable, there’s always an alternative. Bryan mentions a new circuit for 10-and-under players with full courts and regulation balls, which, as a true believer in competition, I applaud. I sure appreciate your stance on that. Talk to your friends at the USTA about that. There is also the Little Mo circuit, which even has an 11-and-under division, and it offers the standard equipment and courts. Everyone I talk to around the country is really happy about Little Mo's resisting USTA pressure and staying with regular tennis balls for their great program and tournaments.

If I were the USTA, I would take Bryan up on his bet of 100 kids with vs. 100 kids without 10-and-under. It’s an experiment worth doing if he’s serious. Bring it on. And give me one of the humungous USTA PD salaries and I'm in. All night and day. And I would have a huge smile on my face the whole time. Tell you what, Coach Bryan will take half of what Pat Mc is getting and I'll start at 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning. And I'll work seven days a week, all day and into the night.

Those who know me won’t be surprised to hear my biggest disagreement with Bryan is about college tennis’s international component. He flat out says, “College tennis should not be a world class sport.” That is exactly what I am saying. And every single tennis parent in this country agrees with me on that. So do our US juniors and our US coaches.

I would have no interest in college tennis if it were not That is an amazing statement to me, and I suspect very few of the elite juniors in this country would either. As I’ve said many times, there is no college coach in the country who would choose an international player over an American, all things being equal. Bryan’s talk of quotas smacks of the entitlement attitude many believe bears some responsibility for the decline of tennis in this country. No. I only ask that foreign parents pay the same taxes for education that our American parents pay. If they would do that for 22 years then I say, their children are entitled to play college tennis in this country. Again, only asking for fundamental fairness. Go to the Italian Open and see how many US players get a WC. Go to Wimbledon and see how many WCs US players get.

Competition is global now, whether in business or sports, and protectionism will create more problems than it will solve. Again, global is fine in professional tennis. It is called international tennis. And it is international tennis. And that is perfect. NCAA stands for National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Not International Intercollegiate Assn. I wrote about this several years ago in more detail, and that column, written for Racquet Sports Industry magazine, can be found here.

Bryan’s failure to mention the College Showdowns I love 'em!!, the Campus Kids Days Ask the ITA folks who was the driving force behind that and the College Showcases Love 'em!! the USTA has organized over the past three years suggests he is either a) out-of-touch No one can accuse me of being out of touch. Travel with me on the road for one year to all the pro events I go to and work, the WTT matches I coach, the talks I give at Coaches Conventions and to parents groups, the college matches I attend and work, the junior tournaments I watch - - - to even suggest that I am out-of-touch is the funnest thing I have ever read that has been written about me. Disagree with my positions and say I am wrong, but to say I am out-of-touch is Looney Tunes. b) willfully ignoring the strides the USTA has made in connecting American juniors to college campuses No speaker in this country advocates juniors going to college tennis matches that I do. Ask college coaches. Ask the ITA. Ask coaches, parents and juniors despite the draconian NCAA rules. Yes, draconian NCAA rules. And nice word, Colette - - - you should be a writer!

Bryan mentions that the Level 1 National draw sizes were increased “a couple of years ago.” It was actually in 1997 Please excuse my imprecise language. Times flies when you are havin' fun, eh. , and it has been a source of contention in USTA junior competition ever since. Yes, with 256 draws and getting rid of the Star Computer System and having a system of all kinds of tournaments where kids could just go chase points in out of the way places ruined the ranking system so that now no one has any confidence in our junior rankings. College coaches no longer rely on them. What a shame. Unfair. It ruined Sectional play so much so that three years ago only 1 of our top 20 18s even played our SoCal Sectional. Now many of the proposals for 2014 look to introduce smaller draw sizes for the truly elite events and restore the importance of sectional play, which seems to be exactly what Bryan is advocating. But if those steps are taken, I guarantee there will be backlash, just as there has been since the National Open draw sizes were reduced. Like veteran and great Coach Jack Sharpe always says, "You want to fix American Junior Tennis? Just go back to the way things were in 1987 before USTA PD."

As I’ve said before, I’ve never been convinced the USTA needed to get in the Academy business. I 100% agree. Do some exit interviews with players who have gone down there sometime. It would be eye opening. I believe devoting so many resources to so few players is poor asset allocation 1000% agree. I say build the base, not polish the top of the pole. The broader and wider the base, the higher the pyramid. The #1 goal of the USTA is to have more kids playing the great game of tennis. If the USTA PD just gets out of the way, we will be fine. One very prominent and well known coach (who like so many others asked that I not use his name) said: One of the keys to becoming a great player in America is being able to avoid all the obstacles set forth by the USTA PD, although I think Bryan overestimates their budget Then, I ask you, Colette, to use your journalistic prowess and get the precise amont of money the USTA will spend on PD this year and over the past 23 years. If you count salaries, credit cards expenses and staff, I say it is well north of $200 M with not one player to show for it. Try that in the private sector. if he thinks they could send 1,000 junior players to Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the NCAAs. We sent 10 juniors to the Davis Cup match in Austin for $3,500, including hotel, tickets, food and a bus ride. Do the math. For what the top USTA PD national staffers make, you could easily send 1,000 kids to these events. And it would be an experience non of them would ever forget and they would return home more fired up for tennis than ever and somehow magically improved.

But I do see the need for a Player Development staff, people who can hold camps, identify talent, travel with young players, confer with Regional Training Centers, interact with junior competition employees in sections, enhance communication with college coaches and players, conduct wild card tournaments, etc. Who will do these things if not Player Development? Very simple and much, much more effectively, the private sector. Please reread the quotes from the various coaches and parents in dark black above.

Although there is still some resentment by private coaches, I think the Regional Training Centers have helped facilitate more discussions between the USTA and those who are committed and proven junior development coaches. I disagree. I talk to local coaches every where I go.

Yes, it’s annoying when it looks like the USTA is taking credit for developing talent it barely knew existed a few years before. 1000% agree It could do a better job of publicly acknowledging the private coaches who do the bulk of the development work with an outstanding junior or college player and admitting they are not responsible for it. Bingo. And also give a pat on the back to the parents and home town and the local tennis community and section that was so instrumental in helping a champion develop.

But when a Christina McHale, or a Grace Min or a Taylor Townsend has a great result, the USTA should get credit for that. But well, well in front of the USTA PD, I want to hear about that local coach and city and parents. That is where the rubber meets the road. Not just a little dusting the USTA might do in their cherry pickin' scenario. (Sloane Stephens also spent several of her formative years at the USTA Player Development program in Carson). Did you do an exit interview with Sloane? Player Development has not been the disaster Bryan claims Well, if not a disaster, what would you call it. I call it a massive failure. Disaster actually works for me too., and since Patrick McEnroe has taken over the program, it has tried to explain its philosophy, work with other coaches and academies, develop regional alternatives to the National Training Centers, and reestablish its commitment to college tennis. By the way, I truly like and admire Pat. What a wonderful record as a junior player, Stanford player, pro player, Davis Cup coach, writer, TV commentator, son, brother, husband and Dad.

I know McEnroe and his staff are in complete agreement with Bryan when he says “There is no one way,” which is why they have tried to be more inclusive. But with so many different routes, it can sometimes be overwhelming to choose one direction and begin the trip. USTA Player Development has now done that. I hope they are willing to listen to others outside the organization to anticipate some of the roadblocks and wrong turns that are inevitable in reaching the destination we all want.

Many at the USTA have read Bryan’s letter, and they know there isn’t much to be gained by responding to it. They believe the daily work they do to provide opportunities for American tennis players is making a difference to those individuals, and a public tiff with one of its most famous coaches wouldn’t produce any winners. Again, I have no problem with any of the people involved with USTA PD now or over the past two decades. I want to again be very clear: I am against the USTA being involved in coaching. It is loaded with problems. Resentments. Unfairness.

And why hiring foreign coaches for USTA PD? Do we not have enough good coaches in this country? Remember Sharapova and Haas and Tursunov coming to this country as youngsters and getting coached by Americans?

The USTA PD chills the private sector coaches. They cherry pick. There is a revolving door of our top juniors at Carson and at Boca and at Key Biscayne before that.

Please hear me - - - I am not against coaching, I am against the USTA being involved in coaching. There is not accountability. They can fail and keep right on getting paid a big salary. Some of them even work part time and have other gigs that take up much more of their time.

Again, the emperor has no clothes. And you know what amazes me the most: you think that this position - - - that is held by the majority of American coaches and players - - - is "unrealistic" and "inflammatory". How far the pendulum has swung . . .

But the USTA would be wise not to ignore the resonance the letter has had, and the well of resentment it has tapped with parents and coaches. 100% agree. There is, indeed, a well of resentment. I speak for many and many encourage me to speak out. It needs to recognize the message it wants to convey isn’t being heard, or isn’t being trusted, 100% agree and that the actions attached to that message are even more important in getting support for its initiatives.

Please feel free to comment on Bryan’s letter or my response below, with a reminder that a name is necessary to post a comment. Anonymous comments will be read, but not posted. I don't have the technical skill to post this letter but I am sure you will do it for me.

I would like to write more but I've got a talk to give and a banquet full of enthusiastic and great private sector coaches waiting. I will, once again, do my very best to entertain, educate, inspire and motivate. No tennis politicas, just pure and good ol' tennis. My opening riff will be on the importance of taking juniors to college tennis matches.

And, Colette, it has been too long since you have been so nice to give me a ride and I hope to be able to return the favor and throw in a nice lunch at your favorite restaurant while we're at it. Thanks for all you do for tennis in so many ways.

By the way, sorry for any misspellings. Don't have my spell checker on this small lap top and I was typing this reply as fast as I could.



Lisa S said...

you both make excellent points. thank you for sharing your POV with the rest of us - i, for one, love learning from all of this back-and-forth that is happening and think it will only lead to good things in the end. please, keep the debate going!

TennisCoachFLA. said...

Great stuff by Mr. Bryan! Thank you for the great read.

Julie said...

Good on all for fascinating discussion. This may not solve the multi-faceted problems with junior tennis, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. Everyone's entitled to an opinion and here's mine: I could kiss Wayne Bryan on the LIPS ;) for using his big voice to speak OUT on behalf of junior tennis. Our involvement with college tennis is minimal but with respect to junior tennis, he's saying EXACTLY what HIGH-TECH TENNIS hears-ALL THE TIME-in the trenches at 25+ junior tournaments each year.

great read said...

I can't agree more with Mr. Bryan, so glad i got to read all his stuff on this subject.

Former Tennis Mom said...

Good thoughts by both of you. As a former Sectional PD Committee Chair, I found the USTA National PD initiatives hard to implement at the Sectional and Local level. While National is looking for the next champion it asks "volunteer" committee members to drink the kool-aid and embrace them without blinking. USTA PD staff needs to listen to parents, players and coaches. With their 'annual' changes it is very difficult to know what path to follow for your player.

Also, I agree with Wayne, USTA should not be in the coaching business.

Phil said...

It was very disheartening to see USTA Player Development coaches being mentioned on-air at last years US Open while sitting watching Jack Sock play Andy Roddick. The context was the future of American tennis/ Jack Sock and cut to the USTA coaches watching in the box. In fairness, there was a mention of his longtime coach. However, it's the "WE'LL TAKE IT FROM HERE" insinuation that really alienates the private coaches. The USTA should consider more flexible resource allocation instead of telling player that he/ she needs to join up with them in order to receive the financial support. So maybe USTA Player Development goes more into identifying talent and resource distribution and less into coaching. Also, I agree that the Player Development staff shouldn't have other jobs... it really cheapens the effort.

steve1959 said...

Great debate and very interesting reading, Wayne Bryan is so right in many of his points, I am an observer from a far , and indeed time will tell , however the kids caught up in this development will never have time again ....so many people get it wrong so many National body's get it wrong ,I have started and coached 6 national age group champions in the past 6 years out of a small obscure city in New Zealand not once has the National Body picked up the phone to say what are you doing to produce these players and do you need help.Keep up the fight Wayne someone will listen eventually ....or will they!

Tennis 101 said...

I read Bryans letter and I can agree to disagree. We do this so much in America, Look what I did! my kids made it to the top now follow me. The UTSA PD is set up to help, is there room for change, yes of course. Do an exit interview with those who left and I guarantee you'll find the reason they left was because they weren't willing to work hard. Americans are afraid of hard work and when pushed, the coaches are crazy and the parents run off to find someone who won't push so hard. Moms gotta have a life, I hear it every weekend. Bryans talking to all the parents whose kids are not getting that invite to come train.Let's not kid ourself all the haters didn't get an invite to USTA PD!!! So man up and show them what you can do without them. Isn't that what America was founded on hard work and no hand outs, have we gotten so lazy we want everything handed to us!? And Mr Bryan NCAA is for American children let the foriegner kids go somewhere else and play,what the heck even the Historically Black colleges have so many foreign players!!! How ya gonna make American tennis great by creating more opportunity for foreign players.........tennis101

TennisDad said...

It is a sad state in this country when the State schools Tennis Teams are 100% foreign .

Note, I said State school...
Yes, it is funded by the state taxpayers.

Many parents do not have the resources, money, to send their kids to private school and so we are very happy to have great state schools here.

Our son, a 4 star player, contacted the coach at the state school. No response. After he was admitted, he went to see if he could walk on. Coach said no, team was done. The roster is all foreign players.

Sad state for American tennis.

Dan said...

The foreigners on the American tennis teams are suppose to be a good thing...

I hear,
"It will help American tennis players."

My question is how does it help American tennis players if the team is all foreign.

All it means to me is that an American stops playing tennis.

Barry Buss said...

Greetings Collette, nice to have found my way to your site.. I commend you for taking on WB's wild long strange trip through the tennis galaxy...we have been slapping it around over on fb for a couple weeks now, with far too many readers/ professionals taking a knee tebow style and saying their prayers at the alter of Mr. Bryan..( many kneeling just to the left or right of Wayno himself...
Mr Bryan comes to these topics with an authoritative voice, a proven successful track record in the coaching world, and the obvious success of his prodigy twin sons gives him a certain standing in our tennis community which deserves to be heard..
That said, his arguments tackle every possible subject any fervid tennis fan just can't get enough of, but I like yourself and many others , just categorically disagree with much of what he says and to better inform the tennis reading public, those disagreements should be discussed in earnest and with an equal passion that Mr Bryan applies...
I'm new to your site and don't know if you have space limitations to postings, but am eager to present some well thought out counter points to his arguments, especially his comments about foreign players seemingly dominating the American college tennis scene and taking all the playing positions and scholarships away from what many believe should be reserved for American tax paying families with. College bound juniors..
I will wait for your initial approval of my first posting here before I start in but my feelings upon reading some of the initial commentaries here are the public is somewhat misinformed 're the college tennis system and I believe WB's points add to that confusion a great deal..
Love your site.. Look forward to participating with you in a tasteful yet passionate and informed manner
Thank you
Barry buss

Barry Buss said...

Another response to the Wayne Bryan manifesto.. This strictly about foreign players competing in NCAA tennis..


John said...

Barry - you wrote nearly 3000 words in response to just one aspect of Mr. Bryan's thoughts, and you call (HIS?!) a manifesto?

Mr. Bryan's thoughts were essentially a passionate brain dump and I don't believe he intended that to be a complete and thorough discussion as you have done with your blog.

I'll take his writing approach and most of his thoughts any day. After reading yours my head just hurts.......(I kept saying to myself as I was reading....please get to the point).

Jerry said...

To Barry Buss,

You make some good point, but do not have address Wayne as Wayno-O or...well, lighten up a bit. By your own analysis, most of college sports are a welfare system (except football/basketball).
We are not talking about revamping the whole system, how many scholarships, what sports to support; I do think that foreign players are not that 'good' either and will never make it as pros.
The issue - at least for me is as follows: if the scholarships are given in the current numbers, I, as an American taxpayer, or tennis benefactor, would much rather have my money go to my neighbor's kid who plays tennis (although he may not be even very good), than to foreign player (who most likely is not very good either).

Mr Zen said...

how do we push Mr. Bryan for USTA President ?
Recently CSU Sacramento played CSU Fresno in women's tennis; out of the 12 competitors....ONLY 1 American (CSUF). Absolutely unacceptable to me !

rs said...

Collete, as one of the parents of children competing now in the very highest levels (ranked in top 20 of each age group nationally), thank you for your reasonable and open style of addressing the issues and concerns that Wayne has presented.

But, with all due respect, your arguments and counter claims cannot hold a candle to his points, either prior to or following his responses to you.

He is correct, and he reflects 100% of the angst and fear that exists among 99% of the parents and juniors now competing.

I realize that you must "play nice" to some degree with the USTA, but this cancer is growing fast and furious among those of us financing the system and the sport. And I GUARANTEE that if you were to poll the parents, juniors, coaches, and directors involved in junior or collegiate tennis in this country, you would find that his opinion and foresights are FULLY supported.

The only ones who would counter him or argue are those now benefiting from the USTA system, and those would be a mere fraction of one percent of the total body polled.

It is more dire and pathetic than you are able to realize.

To Wayne....PLEASE continue and/or form your own Tennis Association.

Colette Lewis said...

I assure you I am looking at these issues as carefully and objectively as I know how. I do not believe I speak for everyone and I don't think you should presume you do either.

rs said...

okay, Colette, but of the 19 families that I have spoken with about this in the past month, 19 of them agree in every way.

And of the 56 families that I have been included on emails about this with, 56 of them agree.

And I did not initiate any of those communications.

So my claim of 99% alignment may be presumptious, but does reflect the 65 out of 65 indications I could base anything upon.

Go figure!

rs said...

Whoops...bad math on my part! I meant 75 out of 75...