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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Letter From USTA's Vegosen and Haggerty to Tim Russell, Chairman of the Junior Competition Committee Regarding Thursday's Statement

On Thursday, the USTA approved a release that suggested they were revisiting some of the changes made to the junior competitive structure. That statement, along with my comments, is available here.

This letter, sent to Tim Russell, chairman of the USTA's Junior Competition committee, from Jon Vegosen and Dave Haggerty, the outgoing and incoming USTA chairman/president/CEO respectively, provides the organization's perspective on possible adjustments to what was passed back in March.


revisionist said...

Yes, and entirely different from what you previously said was USTA material. Note the absence of the statistics you attributed to the USTA. Also a far more professional and less committal than the previous letter. I think we can all agree there should be qualifiers to the major tournaments of a 128 draw. You should probably not look for anything more than this though much more was implied in the first non-USTA letter.

Bob said...

I'll be the exception to the statement "we can all agree there should be qualifiers to the major tournaments of a 128 draw".

I'm not opposed to qualifiers, per se. I see many good reasons to use the qualies formula in juniors. But...

Aren't the sectionals serving as qualifying for national championships? Why duplicate this and take away some of the spots allocated to sectional qualifiers?

It seems to me that qualifying by geographic regions is a pretty common, accepted method of qualifying for national and international competitions across sports.

Back in the 1970s when I was playing junior tournaments, you had to be endorsed by your section to play in the national championships. That never seemed odd to me. You had to win your region to play in state high school tournaments in all the sports. There wasn't another avenue to state championships if you stumbled in regionals.

Colette Lewis said...

To make room for the 16 qualifiers, I believe 8 slots should come from reducing the proposed number of wild cards to 8 from 16 (again, mirroring the US Open) and from reducing the number of sectional quota slots by 8 as well. I think that provides some flexibility for those who prefer to play ITFs and are willing to take their chances in a qualifying tournament. Do you think there should be any wild cards at all? Again, that is a widely accepted tennis concept, that along with qualifiers, provides an additional path into a tournament.

coach said...

the letter basically commits to nothing.

In addition the above poorly conceived concept of adding qualies would actually be a step in the opposite direction of what most want. wealthier players would travel for them (those that travel to ITF's as well) and they would compete for lets say 8 or so spots that would clearly be taken from those that actually would have qualified through sectional play.

therefore, even fewer players qualify through sectional play.

Best answer is to open the draws and simply create a system whereby rich kids who travel and win a round here and there get very few ranking points. So let them travel and lose in first and second rounds. this is a "win-win"

The rich kids get to go and say they went. the better players get the raniking points from advanced rounds. more hotel rooms are filled so hopefully the rates are lower for those who stay longer. etc.

Colette Lewis said...

Could you explain how the qualifying, which is based on US Open, is poorly conceived? Yes it would take 8 spots from sectional quotas, but all the rest of the spots, save wild cards, ( now at 16 for the 18 HC's) would come from sectional endorsements. There is no NSL for the 2 remaining National gold ball events under the plan proposed.
I really am interested to hear why qualifying is flawed, I have heard some college coaches say they would like that option.

too many cooks said...

Funny reading the back and forths here. You can understand why it's impossible to get it right in everyone's eyes. In otherwords, no matter what USTA comes up with, they will get blasted by some and praised by others.

Bob said...

I'm not a fan of wild cards in junior tournaments, so I'd prefer a qualifying tournament to wild cards. I'm sure there are good reasons to give the occasional wild card, but prefer to see players not given spots in tournaments except based upon results.

On the professional level where sponsors use wild cards to bring in players who will draw fans, I have no problem with them. Professional tennis is an entertainment business.


When they agreed to hit the "pause" button, it seems that didn't mean what many thought/hoped it might mean. Hmm-raise your hand if you're surprised...

Hirsch said...

Wow. Enough of the class warfare. Rich kids travel for points?

I do know that my child Asher Hirsch made it onto the boys 14 and under national clays A's a 13 year old. Had the draw been reduced, he would have been on the bubble.

In the 3rd round, he had 2 match points on the number 1 seed. He lost, ultimately, the other kid won the tourney(USTA live in kid btw), but he was one of 2 kids to force a 3rd set. The next year Asher made it to the quarterfinals , losing in 3 setts

My point..under the current format, he would have never been able to play in the nationall tournament. He almost had a giant win. He gained valuable experience which helped him the next year.

Why on earth would anybody trying to promote the sport want to LIMIT opportunities?

While I'm at it, the regional tourneys don't limit travel expenses..they increase it..a hotel room is a hotel room no matter where you go.I now must potentially travel to the state of Washington(which is now a USTA training center) from Ohio to stay in my region. I can drive 1 hour to attend a tourney in the Southern region.

I hope that those thT make the decisions look at this scenario. Im sure its not isolated. To make decisions based on the fact the perception that people are flying around chatting points is frankly peranoid.

Excluding entrants based on the chasing point premise is affecting more people than the perceived point chasers.

Please reconsider. Opportunity, experience is everything

chicago said...

Right on. I actually saw that match.Asher played great, kids hanging on the fence, crowd building. As I recall your son missed to easy ones on MP, twice. Ouch, just trying to stress the experience point.

Why? Why? Why?

Lets reduce the experience opportunities for those that have NOBODY to play or practice against and increase the wild cards allocated by the USTA. How motivating.

Great plan. Hirsch you are an example of that which is missed. Thanks for using your name. I was there but it can be looked up

Curious said...

The core principle that USTA is advancing in the new system is that advancement must be through sectional play. Whether you agree with this or not, I really don’t see them compromising on this, so I really don’t see adding qualifiers to national tournaments as a path they would be open to going down. Their goal is to force kids to play more at the sectional levels, they don’t want to open back doors for them to avoid sectional play.
This principle in mind, there are some changes that they could make that, while may not completely satisfy everyone, would help. First, just increase the draw sizes at nationals back to where they were. They are just too darn small, you can’t cut the number of tournaments and reduce the draw sizes, especially “as we look to a future with many times the participants we have today”.
Second, bring back winter nationals. This event does not interfere with the school calendar, and serves as a great event for people from north looking for a mid-winter tune up and kids with spring birthdays. Alternately, keep Easter Bowl as full size event.
Third, reevaluate the new regions, and increase draw sizes at the regionals. Geographically and financially they don’t make sense. I think you need 6 regions, minimum, not four (three sections per region, except N. Cal an S. Cal become one region).
I know this won’t make a lot of people happy but I think USTA would not have had nearly as much resistance to their new “structure” if the draw sizes were just not so darn small. Especially with a new system like this, the draw sizes should error on the side inclusivity rather than exclusivity.

Clark Coleman said...

Qualifiers do not have to be a means to bypass sectional play. Spots in qualifiers could be based entirely on sectional rankings, perhaps with a few wild cards. The U.S. Open qualifying rounds are not open to everyone who has money to travel. The point here is that we could have a two-step tournament, with the higher-ranked players not forced to show up and pay for hotel rooms so they can beat kids 6-1, 6-1 in the round of 192 or round of 128. There are lots of formulas, e.g. draw of 64 with 16 qualifying spots, qualifying draw has 128 kids with three rounds of play. You can get about the same number of kids in there while satisfying the USTA desire to reduce hotel expenses by 2-3 days for the ones who don't have to qualify.

JB said...

This is my first attempt to “blog” so please excuse me if I make do not write in the correct format. I have been involved with this issue for many years--as a director of a junior academy, as an NCAA Division One coach, and as a tournament director for a National Championship. I am not yet a parent of a national junior, but I am a parent and I understand the passion we all feel in regards to our kids. So, in other words, I feel I have a good grasp of the issues surrounding this proposed schedule and I would like to throw in a few thoughts:

1. Some of the postings I have read have acted as if the USTA didn’t ask for or listen to parents, coaches and players before they came up with this proposal. That is 100% untrue! There have been taskforces, committees, town hall meetings & open forums, etc. for over 10 years regarding the tournament structure.

2. I think everyone realizes that the tournament system is not efficient and it is not producing the number and quality of top players that all of us would like to see. When 90% of the USTA’s operating revenue comes from the US Open and top Americans sell tickets & sponsorships, this is important!

3. The USTA, whether you like them or not, is the governing body of our sport. Everything they do is to promote the sport and to grow the sport. Nobody on the staff or on USTA committees is trying to force decisions, they are simply trying to make the system better!

4. Lastly, unless something changes with the USTA bylaws and structure, this new tournament proposal can’t be “paused” or thrown out. There might be ways to slow the implementation or to alter a few things, but instead of trying to get this stopped, why don’t we all try and add some constructive comments and build a new tournament structure that will produce results!

My quick thoughts for improvement of the structure are as follows:

1. The best argument for keeping the 192 draw can be made for the 18’s. These kids have grown up with the current structure and it is wrong to change it on them in their last year of juniors. Plus, college coaches need to have an opportunity to watch players compete, and the National Championships have always been their best place to do that. So, leave the Boys and Girls 18’s as is for now.

2. For all of the other National Championships, keep the 128 draw. There needs to be consistency throughout all of the age divisions, eventually even the 12’s. If the 10 and Under initiative that the USTA is championing works, then they are going to need 128 draws in the 12’s in the near future.

3. The idea of a qualifying tournament, to me, does not make a lot of sense. It is just keeping the same format and calling it something different. With the new structure, Sectional Championships will qualify one player and then each Section can decide how to distribute their other quota spots. If a Section would like to hold a qualifier then they can, but we don’t need to have players flying in to these National Championships for a chance of qualifying.

4. On the Winter Nationals, I agree. There has always been a national tournament that time of year and there is no reason not to offer something when kids are out of school. I like USTA team event concept, so keep that, but then run the Winter Nationals for the others.

5. Having 6, or even 8 regions I agree makes more sense. Kids need to have opportunities to compete against players outside of their section but shouldn’t have to travel so far to do it. And make these Regionals a big deal, so kids feel as if they are playing a National event!

Lastly, we need to all step back and look at the big picture here. We all want the same thing. For one reason or another, we love the sport of tennis, we love the positive impact it has had on us and our kids, and we want our kids to have the best opportunity to succeed! Let’s all agree on that and have some positive exchanges of ideas!

Wow said...

Wow JB. If you have been involved in this biz as long as you say and in those various capacities, I'm shocked that you don't recognize the USTA staff agendas, or committee agendas, or even individual agendas. That should be obvious to any one involved. Whether those are all bad or misguided is yet another question. Sometimes when an organization asks for input but doesn't state the reason they are asking, the input is not regarded as input. I'm glad you believe the mo gives of the USTA staff are indeed to make things better. Lets just leave it at "that's not always been my experience".


Hey JB,

No one did ask the parents of juniors in this country if we wanted these changes.......

Everyone feels that the USTA only cares about the PD, and these changes were for their benefit.



JB said...

I may be in the minority here and may be looking thru Rose colored glasses, but I believe that everyone involved in this sport is trying to do things to make it better! If we are not, then we should get out!!!

As for the USTA, remember that all of the people on these committees are volunteers and their only benefit for all the time they put in is they get to go the US Open for a couple of days!!! Maybe they have an agenda, maybe it is misguided, but I really don't think any of them benefit from all of this!

Back to the issue though, we do need to make changes and some of these changes will help with officials--smaller size draws should mean more officials available to help kids!

And maybe none of you were at the tournaments that I visited, but we held parent-USTA meetings at every event that I ran and I know most other tournament directors did the same. But you are right, nobody cared to go to these meetings until after they learned of the changes, so now they feel that everything was done without any input!

I'm out of it now, so this doesn't really affect me unless my kids get into it at the national level...but I know being enraged doesn't help!

So...What does everyone want?

How can we get more and better junior players playing and how can we improve the system?

I hear people using the term "earned advancement" and that seems to be sticking...how can we create a system where kids earn their way from one level to the next?

Why do parents want so badly to spend thousands of dollars to travel and play national tournaments just to lose first and first?

I don't mind screaming at the USTA, but what can we offer for improvement?

Colette Lewis said...

As you probably know, I go to approximately 6 to 8 USTA tournaments per year and have done so for more than 5 years. I have never encountered one of these USTA meetings. DId you find/host them at lower-level tournaments? I only cover one regional and an occasional sectional, with all the others Level 1s.

Chicago said...

Colette.. Agreed. Have been going to every national level and more minor junior tornaments for both boys and girls for the last 5 years.I'm not sure what JB is talking about. I don't recall a single meeting solicitating any opinion from any parents..or for that matter any opinion on anything..they actually have "mandatory meetings" where, for a large price, you can endure the lecture by a salesman for either a motivational guru or college recruitment professional..

It's really gross.

Now if you were to ask my Childs coach..he would side with the USTA...duh. High performance coach aspirations.

Tennis dad - GA said...

My son is 17 years old, and a senior in High school. He is being recruited by a few D1 schools ( 5 star). He has been playing national tournaments since age 12. WE HAVE NEVER SEEN ONE USTA MEETING at any national, regional or sectional tournament.

However, this summer, they did start with the 12's. How convenient after the changes went through.

Also, never in 5 years, have we ever received any questionaire form the USTA asking our opinion.

I have on many occasions complained to the national USTA office about shortage of refs, and bad tournament conditions.
Zero response back.

I don't think all the folks are volunteers.
I think quite a few get paid good money.

Oh, and scholarships for my son?
None, going to the foreigners on the team.

Would never do this again.
No payback in college $ for the many thousands I spent.

JB said...

I guess my tournament was an exception on the meetings, but we had them (and yes it was a level 1 national championship).

As for the USTA not listening, I could not agree more - sometimes people on these committees lose touch with the real world. But in most districts or sections they are always looking for people to volunteer, so if you truly want to make changes then get involved!

USTA employees get paid, some at the National level get paid a lot, but all of the committees and even the National Board of Directors are made up of volunteers--and at the end of the day, the Board and Committees make the decisions.

On collegiate tennis, yes foreign players take many of the spots away from American kids; but this is a school by school decision...it has nothing to do with the USTA. Get mad at the school, write letters to the editor of the school's paper to embarass the Athletic Director, but don't blame the sport!

Tennis may not have paid you back for all the money you spent on your kids' tennis, but I am sure it gave your son much more than money can buy! Self Esteem? Great Friends? Health? Kept him out of drugs? And if he truly wants to play college tennis, there is some place he can play--just may not be where he wants to play!