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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wertheim on Player Development and Patrick McEnroe; Stone's Lessons from US Open; USO Junior Champions; Harrison Profile

One of the highlights of every slam is the Fifty Parting Thoughts that Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim writes at its completion.  Among the notable items from the US Open this year was this on USTA Player Development and General Manager Patrick McEnroe.

"Don't misconstrue this as a personal condemnation. (If anything, he is to be commended for being in such high demand.) But there was a report -- premature, it turns out -- that the USTA had renewed Patrick McEnroe's contract as general manager of player development, a position he's held since 2008. This triggered many questions and comments and outrage from you guys, from everyone from aggrieved parents to former No. 1 players.

There are valid points on both sides. Yes, the numbers are grim for U.S. tennis, and the New York Post report surfaced the day after the American men completed their worst year at the four Grand Slam tournaments.

On the other hand, what's the benchmark? We all know that it's no longer fair to expect excellence of any one country. Yes, there have been a lot of complaints and dysfunction in the player development program. (See this damning piece from The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta.) But, as any little league coach can attest, you're always going to have aggrieved parties when there are finite slots and subjective judgments. Yes, the men's side is dire. But America is the best-represented country in the WTA's top 100.

Without even addressing McEnroe's competence or incompetence, here's a fundamental question I struggle to get beyond: If the USTA were a public company and the board were answerable to shareholders and Wall Street, would it ever -- at a time of unprecedented crisis and public relations challenges -- install as a leader someone unwilling to commit to doing the job full time? Someone who would spend much of the Slams and other big pro tournaments (including the U.S. Open, the American tennis Super Bowl and annual trade show) working in the TV booth? When there are players to observe, coaches to be assessed, meetings to attend, complaining parents to be assuaged? The person tasked with turning around a struggling enterprise, at a significant salary, is moonlighting?

Again, this job is fraught with politics and infighting in the best of times. Why would you fight with an arm tied behind your back? What am I missing?"
Can anyone provide Jon an answer on what he's missing?  I can't.

Lisa Stone at the Parenting Aces blog was credentialed at the US Open this year, and she wrote a piece this week on what she learned from that experience.  My first trip to the US Open ten years ago was memorable, and, frankly, not as positive as Lisa's, but it served to motivate me even more to return the following year.  Lisa has posted many audio interviews with parents and coaches on her website, and I encourage you to listen to them for the hard-won lessons they reveal.

The WTA provided this piece on the US Open girls champion Ana Konjuh, and the BBC speculates on the chances US Open boys champion Borna Coric will play this weekend in the World Group Davis Cup tie between Croatia and Great Britain.

And Christian Harrison, who is currently not playing due to an injury, is the subject of this ATP Emirates "Stars of Tomorrow" feature.


Not USTA Fan said...

Lisa should have been at the US Open the previous two years, when the junior matches were moved to the flea bag indoor courts somewhere in Long Island, althought he sun was out shining bright.

Analysis said...

Tssk, tssk ... Wertheim is a bit naive in his comments. Although totally on point about the corporate mindset statement, would you really get rid of your ace mouth piece and biggest promoter of the US Open? McEnroe is invaluable in that role. Besides, the USTA has never listened very well to outside input. It is a closed and non transparent entity. Period. A profitable corporation (non public) that is a non profit. How does that work?

The nearest point of action is Higueras, his coaches and the Boca situation. McEnroe should get rid of Jose for the many reasons that have been cited through the years. Coaching leadership should be examined and changes made. The Boca model has not worked. Maybe going forward with mainly pros and/or developed players training there has a chance.

Bottom line is that until the USTA leadership, ie Haggerty, Smith, the Board, takes a strong, fact based and non political stance, US tennis will continue to be mired in mediocrity.


"Mired in Mediocrity"...The truth hurts :(

tennisforlife said...

Wertheim hits the nail on the head - McEnroe has become a lightning rod for criticism. The USTA has spent +/- $100mm on PD since 08 with virtually nothing to show for it. McEnroe and Higureas are part time employees with big big salaries. It is not a defensible position. If they renew these contracts at these salaries I think they are inviting an IRS challenge to their non-profit status from some very angry tennis people.

SeminoleG said...

@ Collette, as I stated on another thread SEEING the Croatia FED CUP Captain on the side with his 15yr old playing and winning tells you all you need to know. My comments were directed @ a US Girl in the FINAL and I see no USTA or Ex-Champs in the wings guiding them. Don't know why but I would have expected to see USTA colors, and US presence from USTA at this match.

Take the correct Actions..... said...

it is funny how many people will lash out on this site about the USTA PD but how many will take the time to write Gordon Smith, the Chairman of the Board or a USTA Board Member their thoughts and complaints?

Only then can something be done.

Like a Wayne Bryan or Tim Mayotte, etc.

Tennis dad said...

I am a tennis dad with 2 sons, ages 20 and 14.
We live in a small section.

My oldest son is playing college tennis right now, and loving it. But, did he start out playing tennis at age 5? Nope, he played soccer and baseball until twelve, and then switched over to tennis.

Back then, pre 2010 cuts, there were lots of opportunities to play DIFFERENT PLAYERS and national tournaments. All the great tournaments are now gone.......

When I complained to my sectional about the national cuts for my son who doesn't want to play the same 5 boys over and over and over again for the next few years, I was told they were voting against them, until they voted for them.

In the 5 years that Patrick McEnroe has been head of player development, I have never seen him at ONE TOURNAMENT.

Robert from Texas said...

"The USTA recently voted to reduce competitive opportunities for juniors on the national level by more than 80% at all age levels by 2014."


So, an organization that made these changes even though it was faced with overwhelming opposition
from tennis coaches, parents and juniors,
is still going through after the same organization just acknowledged that they are getting out of the main part of the PD business.

What am I missing here?

Colette, is there any way to stop these changes.
Kids will just quit tennis at this rate.....

tennisforlife said...

Take the correct actions....

a lot of us have - no response!! No accountability!!

jatc said...


Your analysis is, charitably speaking, crap. The junior McEnroe gets paid close to $1M dollars in compensation in salary and expenses and to say he his part time is charitable; he is an absentee manager, and he incompetent at at that during the few hours he spends.

Given all the money he makes from being a TV announcer, etc, does he really need the money from the USTA at all ? Of course not. But like many insiders, the USTA is a tit to which he has become entitled to suck upon. And he is the biggest sucker of them all.

Define invaluable to me? If he loses the role of TV announcer, does he, would he or should he, somehow stop being an advocate for American tennis?

Or vicsa versa, where he not to be the USTA PD head, should we not expect him to be an advocate of America tennis players ?

Seriously, what are the consequences you are anticipating : we fire PMac from USTA PD, and, in revenge, he goes on air and promotes Chinese tennis players. Get real.

If so, that confirms him as the Dbag I believe him to be. Seriously, is this some sort of green mail to a TV announcer so they say positive things about the USTA, and well the USTA should just hand him (boat loads) of money becuase he is from from McEnroe family ???

All of which is really even funny, becuase we if so we should sort of get our money back because if I hear him talk "ON AIR" about how we need to recruit, more athletic American players, AKA you have no problem pissing on the guys you hand picked, because well, Uh, Uhm "you,know,we absolutely know" who the best players are going to be by the time they are twelve". KMA. He hand picks the 12's and 14's and say's screw the rest and when the ones he hand picks fail to come through he blames it on them, their work ethic etc, not the fact that he tried to make the move away from there families, friends, coaches and live in craps shit dorms. If some kid blooms late they piss allover them until, they can't any more becuase they keep wining, and then try to co-opt them with some free coaching, travels expense and training, which they invariably take, because they are so close at this point, they dont want to piss off the golden goose. The they try to claim the as a 'PD' success.

Nothings stick's on him, it just slides off like he's a freakin teflon duck, year after year. Year after freakin year.

When will people wake up, this is an organization with a serious, important mission, and a $17M per year budget. It needs a real leader, not a figurehead, part time tv announcer "with connections" who happens to be related to a really good tennis player.Whole.Thing. Makes. Me.Puke.Third.World.Stuff.

Oh, and while I am ranting, ya know what pisses me off the most ? During super nationals and and opens and sometimes regionals, player development will Tweet "Congratulation Tweets". Know what they tweet - congratulation to their players who won, and congratulations to the coaches at the RTC facilitates they trained at, even if it's not the player primary coaches. Nothing if they lose. Remember, the other player is USTA player too, just not one of the "CHOSEN:". No congrats to them.

Again, what a bunch of dirtballs, if you are going to tweet, just tweet congratulations to whoever won, instead you tweet congratulations to PD payer, and ignore it if they lost to one of the riif raff.

The whole PD RTC camp selections process needs to go. It's an abomination.

Tmom said...


!!!!! well put

Richard - Ct said...


I would like to tell you about an experience I had as a parent at the USTA in Carson. We are from the East Coast and my son was in the International Spring Championship in Carson.

I called the PD office and asked if my son was a USTA member could he use the Carson facility to warm up for the tournament ( two days before the event). They told me no, just the day before....

We get there and it is a beautiful facility.
Tons and tons of tennis courts, and a track....
Hard courts and clay courts.

No one on the courts.... Empty.
My kid, a USTA member, couldn't get on the courts until the day before... UH. Why?

I asked a local when shopping at the grocery store with teenage boys why they didn't use the courts, and was told they were always locked.

This is a not for profit?

Get out of the booth said...

The head of US Player Development should be at Kalamazoo for Hard Courts. All the top junior players, coaches and colleges are there. But Patrick McEnroe was broadcasting from Canada. Not a good message.

Fed UP WITH THE USTA said...

I find the sectional offices to be as bad as the USTA PD is portrayed.....

I wrote to my sectional and emailed the head office in White Plains, NY voicing my opposition to the national cuts.

I followed up with a phone call to my sectional office after, and was told, that the reason the cuts were going through was that some parents did not have the $ to fly to tournaments, and this equalized it for everyone.

Is this a class warfare response to parents who can afford to travel?

If my daughter was not highly ranked enough in the 14's ( top 40 on the National list), she would not be able to get into the 16's. But, those opportunities are now gone because it was unfair to the parents who couldn't pay for travel....
Well, then why not take some of the money from PD and fund the juniors who couldn't afford to play the L2 and the L3.
Why is everyone being punished here.

Tennis Coach said...

In 5 years since the USTA new leadership was installed, we should have seen at least one boy who is up and coming in the US Open Juniors this year who reached at least the QF.......

Junior parent said...

So, I ask the same question to the TD at every regional and sectional tournament that I attend with my daughter.

"Does the USTA pay for any cost of this tournament?" The answer is always NO.

Yet, at almost every tournament, there are the same complaints of cheating and too few refs
( one ref trying to cover ten courts at our sectional).

The biggest reason that we don't have better tournament players in this country is simple...

Kids ( children and teenagers) just can't grasp the concept of why they would spend their free time training for something where their results don't show through because some other kid cheated them out of the match....

If you don't think it is happening, come to any sectional in this country and watch what is going on.

If my $50 to $100 tournament fee is not enough money to pay for the courts and TD and refs,
for the refs......

Honestly, I don't care if PMac is the head or not,
I have never met him or seen him at one tournament, but I am flabbergasted that we,
the parents of junior parents, are completely funding these tournaments and the TD seem short of $$$$$

Igor said...

To Get out of the Booth,

Funny comment about Mcenroe in Canada instead of KZoo. Another dad and I were going to make up posters with a picture of PMac and ask if anyone has seen this man and plaster them at Stowe Stadium.
But, figured my son's acceptance spot would probably disappear at some future tournament, so we stopped.

Pro American said...

What is upsetting for everyone that is not a PD parent is that there seems to be zero oversight and concern for juniors who are not PD players.

We really need a tennis organization for the other group, the 99% of juniors who don't aspire to go pro.

Juniors that wish to play college tennis are now being squeezed out of national tournaments and in turn, by being seen by college coaches.

The end result is that college coaches will now turn to foreigners in even large numbers if that is all possible.

Growing the game of tennis among juniors will be exponentially harder if there is no opportunity for scholarship money or even a spot among a D1 team.

Tennis is a very expensive sport.
Court time, coaches, group lessons, private lessons, racquets, strings, sneakers, doctors visits for injuries, etc.......
Parents would like to see some ROI after spending an exorbitant amount of money on the sport.

So, the fact that the USTA PLAYER DEVELOPMENT
Is not concerned at all with the large increase of foreigners in D1 tennis is alarming to the parents.
99% of junior parents are not looking for their sons to go pro, they just want them to play college tennis.


Lack of refs -

To the Poster who commented on lack of refs, we have experience terrible cheating at our sectionals too.

I did speak to our sectional head, and was told
"There is always cheating in tennis...."

I find that to be an unusual response and one that seems to lack any ounce of responsibility to their job.

She, our sectional head, was surprised when I told her that I was a junior player too, back in the day of the 80's, and there was never the amount of cheating that is going on now.

Bad line calling and changing the score sum up the cheating, but the bathroom breaks, the injury timeouts, the racquet throwing, the spiking of the ball, the cursing, the F--king Jesus, are just over the top and go on and on as there is no oversight.
Drama and drama and very little tennis that is actually played.

It's like Lord of the Flies out there with tennis balls. When will the USTA realize that you can't put 24 kids on 12 courts and expect them to do the right thing with zero oversight, and one ref who is texting on her phone.

Zero Leadership said...

Most of the current Top Mens Pro players come from college.

8 of the 16 American players in the Top 150 ATP went to college.

3 of the 4 USA Davis Cup players went to college.

USTA PD should not be in the business to develop juniors.

Director of Coaching, Jose Higueras should not be living in Palm Springs.

Head of Player Development, Patrick McEnroe should not be a part time position.

Head of Mens Program, Jay Berger needs to spend more time running and organizing the mens program instead of traveling with Ryan Harrison and Assistant Coach of Davis Cup. He has proved he cannot do all 3 or even 2 of the 3. "When you try to do all, you do nothing" Also shows no trust in his staff.

With Patrick McEnroe signing a multi year extension, the USTA PD leadership will remain the same. If this was a normal business, they would be bankrupt!

Who to Hate? said...

Interesting, everyone seems to hate the USTA on this board, but it seems to be split into camps of:

Hate PD
Hate Mcenroe
Hate Sectional head.

Personally, I think it is hopeless for parents to expect that Mcenroe would know who your son or daughter is... That is the job of the sectional office.

The difficulty is that when you have a problem at a national tournament or are trying to get a wild card,
the national office never responds and the sectional office says they don't deal with national issues.
So, it seems like parents have no where to go,
except a blog on Zoo Tennis.

Other than that, I agree with the cheating in the sectionals. My younger child doesn't play anymore, he just couldn't stand it. My complaints fell on deaf ears with the sectional head.


here we go again...we completely agree with all & could tell many more such stories...but at the end of the day, it makes ZERO difference to the powers that be :( The future of tennis in America looks very, very sad from where we sit & that is a downright shame. If you haven't already, please consider the National Showcase Series of events being promoted by TennisRecruiting.net. These are in direct response to the pathetic changes that are coming straight at junior tennis on JANUARY 1, 2014. If you think it's bad now, JUST WAIT!

Junior Changes said...

Do we know the Leadership, other than Lew Brewer, who made the junior competition changes? Patrick McEnroe? Jose Higueras?

The Sectional Staff approved it even though most were against it.

Analysis said...

Jatc - you didn't get the sarcasm about the P McEnroe statement made. I agree with all of your points but the USTA sees him as the face of the Open. That is fact. Then for lack of anyone else they make him the face of PD and they renew his contract for another five years. Do people know that, insulting as it is?

The system in total is messed up, period and don't waste you ink writing to the leaders of the USTA. They will take no action. The new President, Dave Haggerty, is the only one that has a remote chance of promoting changes. He gets what is going on but like every President before him, the Organization wraps them into paralysis. It would be most welcome to see a significant restructuring but don't hold you breath.