1. I admit myopia on this topic.
2. I always admit my use of international tennis players to my great advantage.
3. These people and many opponents are stellar players and people.
4. Blog # “XENOPHOBIA” lists blogs written over the years on this subject.
5. The comments below are repeated, new, and a challenge to those with similar feelings
to explore the issue further. I have several questions that I don’t have the resources
or time to verify.
First- some good local news. Going into the 2016 NCAA Championships three Atlantic Coast Conference men’s tennis teams were seeded in the top six, including #1 Virginia who won the championship. UNC-Chapel Hill won the ITA national indoor title. Wake Forest beat UVA for the Deacons first ever ACC men’s tennis title. The women had some very similar accomplishments.
However, the 2016 French Open results were much the same for American pros. North Carolina’s John Isner making the second round. No other men’s singles in sight for the fourth year in a row. Again our best shows came from John and the Bryan Brothers (both college products), and Serena and Venus (who avoided USTA influences early on).  And, of course  Shelby Rogers made the quarters, no small accomplishment.  Shelby, interestingly, was home schooled.
Here are some questions and “food for thought” for anyone concerned about the future of American tennis:
1. Does the USTA realize they are spending $500,000,000 plus for a roof and that when it is done perhaps no Americans will qualify for the USOPEN?
2. Did we actually spend 17 million dollars on USTA Player Development with this kind of results?
3. What are the plans on the horizon to correct this problem? Are we willing to listen to new or valid suggestions?
4. If so, has this been thoroughly thought out: There is a direct correlation starting from 1970 until 2016 between the number of scholarships given to American college tennis players to the current dearth of highly ranked American pros. Further, an examination of the top ten Americans during the 70’s and 80’s reveals the quality of those players compared to the top ten men and women today. My belief is the best elite training system world wide is the American College/University athletic programs.  Ask Isner 1. were you selected for USTA elite programs? 2. Did your participation at GEORGIA prepare you for your best shot at pro tennis? 3. Did you have a scholarship? 4. Would you have selected GEORGIA had they not provided that grant?
5. An e-mail I received from a “tennis person” suggested there was 860 million dollars spent on college tennis programs. Is that true?
6. Want the best rationale for scholarships, from the #1 sport world wide–soccer?  Fact: Our men have never won the World Cup. With the advent of Title IX in 1970 our USA women have won three times! The 23 woman roster this time featured all women with college play and college scholarships. I was asked where the Olympic training camp for women was by a colleague from Elon University. Reply: Thirty five miles east. (Six of the twenty three had played for Anson Dorrance’s UNC Tar Heels.)
7. Change comes fast. In 2015 Duke’s women’s golf team finished 2nd in the NCAA. It was on NATIONAL TV. The BLUE DEVILS roster housed no American women. Coaches depend on winning to keep their jobs. I’ll guarantee young women golf coaches made note of Duke’s roster. (And how many good young Asian players are coming along). While this may be new to some it is not to many, myself included. In 1970 the NAIA voted down a “one only international can play in the NAIA Nationals” rule. A grizzled old coach stood and predicted, “…if you allow this, in about two years a Texas team will bring in an all Mexican team and it’s all over!” He was wrong. The next spring Mercyhurst College (PA.) produced the team winner consisting of six “freshmen” from Finland. Our coaches made note of that. I know I did. And you can’t blame the coaches. Our high schools feature African American men’s basketball players almost exclusively.  Soon the Colleges followed suit. High school girls, then college women. Perhaps no sport changed ethnicities faster than women’s college basketball from mostly white to mostly black.

My guess is that football and basketball will continue to feature more black players.  Not one thing wrong with that.  However it has social and sport implications.  First is the concussion issue that is on the front burner now.   My strong belief is that many black kids join the military because of unfair and limited options.  Is it not wrong to steer any group of young people to war’s dangers and horrors?   It doesn’t stretch the intellect too far to see similarities with the ever growing dangers of football.  Are we forcing some smaller kids into an arena where  they are dangerously over matched?

Back to tennis, and there is a connection.   As bigger and better athletes reject football and maybe even basketball, wouldn’t it be wise for tennis to make a bee-line to recruit them to the tennis court?   I can tell you right now those people are selecting other sports in the South.  Soccer and  now Lacrosse are draining these guys and girls their way.

Want one main reason?  Duh- college scholarships?

A popular and long held notion is that pro tennis youngsters should avoid college.  I believe now more than ever those are rare creatures.   Most of our elites have come out of a basic structure or path.  First the home and the parents:  Chris Evert,  Jim Connors,  McEnroe, the  Bryans,  the Williams sisters, and the most recent ones Isner, Steve Johnson,  and now Shelby Rogers. The best players in the world can be cited (Rafa and Uncle Tony.   The Joker is making a case for “best ever” and he came for a one court Serbian town with a woman pro).  Most Americans  had connections to college tennis, or at least it was in the back of their minds.  The next step was the local pros.  Try Pete Sampras and Dr. Fischer.   Clubs and their pros were a main cog in the wheel.

Another quantum change when so many academies took kids away from their homes too soon.  No  matter who or how much you pay some one , will they pay the same amount of attention as a loving parent.   Some academies were guilty  of throw away kids,  drugs, limited education, and limited help for those other than the ones who could make the academies shine.

Colleges do a much better job at a more mature age.  As academies purport to do, colleges house, feed, train student/athletes with a lot more worthwhile education thrown in.  Both are expensive.   The expense and the value of scholarships all the more reason to motivate tennis as a sport choice for the talented.

One personal guess is that Title IX  was unjustly blamed for some schools who dropped tennis.   I wonder how many Athletic Directors silently came to a conclusion similar to this?

  1.  All sports are counted in the standings for our ‘Conference Cup’?
  2. We are in a conference with four good tennis teams with all foreign teams and we give 8 girls and 41/2 boys grants to internationals.
  3. I can find a better place for that size of budget.

Families, free play, clubs and pros, junior tournaments, to college.  Injury doesn’t take away your education.   Maybe four years of college tennis is the answer.

There is one specific  place I believe American tennis should focus on getting better.  Many  high schools don’t have teams.  Many teams have limited budgets.  Many coaches receive little  or no compensation.   Many local pros could help train new or limited coaches and players.  Some talented players elect to not play high school tennis.  My strong belief is that playing for your team is important.  And I believe a pro and coach working together can be very productive.  The game is the best teacher.  To play an extra twenty matches for your high school can’t hurt.

My book, THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK of  TENNIS  is geared at helping junior and high school teachers, coaches, players and teams.  Private funding provided this guide for all 711 boys and girls high school coaches in North Carolina’s public schools.

I am still wondering about data that a group of “worker bees” or tennis organizations could find out.

  1.  I betcha 75% of scholarship aid in tennis goes to internationals.
  2. I wonder how many at all levels (NCAA I, II, and III, and NAIA, and Junior Colleges) have an all foreign team.  State schools?
  3.  What percentage of awards  go to  predominantly international teams?  All conference, all regional, all americans, outstanding player, outstanding freshman?
  4. How many second children  elected another sport after seeing a sibling lose a valuable grant to a first choice school.
  5. Isn’t it about time some of our organizations screw up their courage and use their time, money and efforts to make these facts available to American parents and players.  The USTA, NCAA, ITA, NFHSAA, athletic directors, administrators.
  6.  What legal statute keeps us from taking care of Americans first.  What does the legal term “state actor” mean to this issue.  What really came down when the ITA voted in an allotment of 50% aid for our kids, then acquiesced to the “big boys”?
  7.  Would  anyone foot the bill for a court decision?   How about running a bluff.  Try this:  1.  The NCAA has a ton of money  2. The USTA has a ton of money.  3. The NCAA really cares about the money sports, i.e.foorball and basketball.  Tennis, not so much.  If the USTA, whose first love is tennis , walked to the courthouse with a big of money, who would blink first?





3 thoughts on “PASSING THE FLAG

  1. Hi Tom,

    I enjoy following your blog and wanted to share some good news with you about how our USTA community tennis association is growing young tennis players in small communities like Rockingham County, NC (pop. 93,000). With the support of over $13,000 in USTA program grants last year and a dedicated group of volunteers, we are introducing the sport of tennis to children “where they are” – in elementary and middle school PE programs, at after school child care providers, Parks & Recreation centers and our Boys & Girls Clubs. We also support our High School and Middle School coaches by connecting them to USTA HS online courses and training opportunities, offering USTA Junior Team Tennis for players to get more match play, and offer free HS and MS player clinics twice a year with our one teaching professional – Bitrus Istifanus.

    We even received a $10,000 USTA Schools Line grants in 2015 and painted 45 youth tennis courts (red ball 18×36 courts) on playgrounds at 7 elementary schools, 1 middle school, Boys & Girls Club and new Salvation Army recreation center – effectively providing youth tennis clubs right outside their door. Two USTA Facilities grants are providing $20,000 towards resurfacing the 6 courts at Rockingham Community College that will provide match location for 2 high schools and 2 middle schools (We have 4 of each in our county.) as well as open for community play. These are the first courts resurfaced in our county in more than 15 years.

    I recognize that this effort will probably not create the next American tennis professional to step on the courts at the US Open but we certainly hope to re-fill the ranks of High School and Middle School tennis teams in Rockingham County, maybe create a college player or two and provide families a lifetime sport to enjoy together.

    USTA Community Tennis Associations across NC and the country are being supported and funded to provide a pathway of tennis experiences and help everyone “find themselves in the game”.

    Thought you’d like to know. 🙂

    1. ethomasparham

      Now you are “carrying the flag”! And you have my thanks. (one woman, one court equals one Djokavic? Who knows, but you are where it starts. Regards to my Madison friends, and Grayson Whitt and the Sands.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s