Thursday, April 16, 2020

USTA Introduces $50 Million of Support for Tennis Industry; US Open Status Expected in June; Djokovic Joins Loehr and Uelhing in UTR All-Access

The USTA announced more details of its plan to help sustain the United States tennis industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, committing 50 million dollars for this relief. Twenty million of the 50 million dollars is expected to come from salary reductions, elimination of marketing programs and reduced spending, particularly in travel, for Player Development. The bullet points offered in today's release:

  • USTA Facility Grants: USTA facility grants are being developed to support facilities in need of financial support to reopen. This funding, expected to reach more than $5 million in total, will come from both USTA National and the USTA Sectional offices. Funding criteria, award levels and the application process are being finalized and will be available on or before May 1.
  • Certified Tennis Professional Membership Grants: The USTA is working with the USPTA and PTR to ensure that certified tennis professionals are able to renew their annual membership dues moving into 2021. This will allow these critical tennis providers to maintain their liability insurance, be Safe Play compliant, and continue to have access to educational opportunities. The organizations will be collaborating on this plan over the coming weeks. Grants are expected to exceed $2.5 million.
  • The USTA Foundation will provide $5 million in program support, grants and scholarships to grassroots tennis and education organizations supporting underserved communities through the National Junior Tennis and Learning network.
  • Access to legal expertise with links to identify and claim government support through the CARES Act at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • The hosting of all tennis offerings from key organizations within the tennis industry on one central site to enable ease of access of key offerings available at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • FREE access to online continuing professional development for facility owners and managers and tennis professionals at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • FREE phone support to help the tennis industry cope with the emotional impact of COVID-19 through the USTA’s health provider, Aetna. Those needing to utilize this service can call 1-833-327-AETNA and reference the USTA.
  • A dedicated email address, covidsupport@usta.com, has been created for those in the industry to submit specific queries regarding available COVID-19 support. 
  • Daily updates and guidance by leading experts will be made available on http://www.tennisindustryunited.com that will give specific information about key steps to take to navigate the pandemic.
  • The USTA will provide a free website builder tool with marketing and content resources that allows turnkey solutions for communication tools for facilities and pros.
  • The USTA National office has recommitted as its top priority the continuation of the “grow the game” funding commitments of $35 million to community tennis programming in 2020 and 2021. These funds are distributed through the 17 USTA Sections to get the money closer to grassroots decision-makers and fund grassroots tennis programs at parks, schools, NJTLs and a variety of other local efforts. Tennis providers are encouraged to connect with their local USTA offices to explore Section, District and State offerings.
USTA CEO and Executive Director Michael Dowse also suggested in the release that the USTA was working with the ATP, WTA and ITF for ways to support professional players who are suffering financially without playing opportunities.

“With phase one and phase two, the priority has been to start the process of ensuring that the foundation of our sport remains in place and is viable in the future,” added Dowse. “We now quickly are taking a look at the broader tennis ecosystem and are working with our colleagues within the Grand Slams, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA Tour to determine how to provide help for lower-ranked professional tennis players who are facing tournament cancellations and financial hardship.”

About an hour after the release, Dowse spoke in a USTA conference call about this program and about the US Open. Dowse's full remarks, including questions and answers can be found here.

The topic of the US Open was of great interest to everyone on the call, with Dowse saying: "We've set a timeframe around June to make that decision. The way we're approaching it is through a medical advisory group. We have five or six doctors that are consulting with us on a regular basis. Based off that information, we'll ultimately make the decision if it's safe to play the tournament or not. So stay tuned on that."

While not exactly optimistic, that statement gave me hope, but I became more pessimistic when Dowse answered a question about the possibility of playing without fans, which Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday was a solution to getting sports back.

Playing without spectators, we're not taking anything off the table right now, but to be honest and open, I think that's highly unlikely. That's not really in the spirit of the celebration of tennis. It also goes back to the health and wellbeing of not just the spectators but of our players and support staff that help run the tournament. Unless the medical industry or medical experts come up with a solution that truly is foolproof and safe, we don't see that as an option. Having said that, things are fluid. If the medical experts come back and say here is a foolproof way of running a very safe tournament, unfortunately it has to be without fans, we may reconsider and look at it at this point. Today it's just too early to kind of speculate on what the exact specifics will be at that time.

With the PGA Tour announcing its plan to return in June, without fans for its first four tournaments, there is some reason for optimism, but with New York being hit so hard, and the better case for social distancing with golf, maybe that optimism is misplaced. But I would think the US Open would find it financially advantageous to have the tournament as basically a television only event, to at least recoup some of the losses it would sustain by not having ticket or concession revenue. Of course, public health should be the first consideration, and USTA is fortunate that the PGA is going to be serving as the guinea pig in finding the balance between that and the resumption of competition.
The UTR All-Access webinar today featured UTR CEO Mark Leschly, Court Sense's Gordon Uehling and Sports Psychologist Jim Loehr.  Uehling has been friends with Novak Djokovic for over a decade, and Djokovic sent a testimonial video to UTR to air at the beginning of the webinar.

I had the opportunity to attend a Loehr presentation live some years back at the ITA Coaches Convention, and it was terrific. Loehr obviously loves tennis and believes in its ability to build and reveal character. He has thought deeply about what it means to have a champion's mindset, and he breaks down the qualities into four pillars: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual (Character). As with muscles, Loehr maintains that all can be developed with practice over time, and he advocates ways for each competition to become their own best coach. He has written many books about various aspects of development, and any one of them will inspire you personally and professionally.

Loehr also revealed the one characteristic that is the most important in making a champion: drive.

The entire webinar will be available soon at the UTR All Access page (when it is available it drops from the top of the page to the bottom of the All Access section).  Next Tuesday's webinar will feature Corey Gauff, Coco Gauff's father. Registration, which is free, is available at the All Access page.


Brent said...

I do not understand the 'highly unlikely' comment from Dowse about playing the US Open without fans. Don't know why Wimbledon didn't consider it. Don't know why early chatter is that college football or the NFL wouldn't do it. I get that it stinks. I get that it is a huge revenue hit but still has to be significantly incrementally positive on cash flow - unless it invalidates some insurance protection. Maybe you lower the prize money as a one-time thing to reduce the costs a bit - if someone doesn't want to play as a result, so be it. Overwhelming majority will still play.

I really hope it doesn't come down to that decision for the US Open but it very well may. If the options are play with no fans or don't play, I hope they make the obvious right one and still put on the tournament. We'll be cheering from here for this year.

From Script to Action said...

List and description are impressive... let’s see some action and results. Makes a great read until it’s implemented.