WHAT TO DO?

Wayne Bryan, father of the tennis twins, wrote a long, thoughtful letter to the USTA some while ago. My blog 117 condenses a  few points from the letter. My post “The Guerilla Bureaucrat” calls for a powerful insider to throw appropriate light on the exit of college tennis scholarships  to international players. And to the link between no scholarships for American players and no quality American players winning slams or even getting close. For years no one has done much to confront this cocktail of demise for American tennis. Contrarily, Coach Bryan may now have hit a major nerve with American parents. Then follow Patrick McEnroe’s response:  http://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.com/2012/02/patrick-mcenroe-responds-to-wayne.html  Along with both long letters, it is essential to read the attached comments.

My gratitude to Coach Bryan includes appreciation for his effort to change the situation.  Having similar feelings for over 40 years of coaching college tennis, I am also aware of the need for powerful leadership capable of rattling the cage of tennis people in America.  (See blog 169, again.)

Having read Mr. Bryan’s letter and Mr. McEnroe’s response, I then tallied the comments  about Internationals in American college tennis.  These represent about 30% of the total comments on the letter.

Summarizing the pros and cons these main  themes showed up:

NO CHANGE NEEDED.  1.  Internationals add diversity to our school.  Better players, better attitudes.   2.  Our school’s tennis team quality would be drastically reduced with US only, or limited rosters.  3.  The USTA doesn’t govern college tennis,  the NCAA does.  4.  Limitation   is  unconstitutional.

I  don’t disagree with 1 or 2.  Number 3 needs some comment.  While the NCAA governs Divisions 1,2,3,   the INTERCOLLEGIATE TENNIS ASSOCIATION   is an affiliate of the NCAA. It’s predominate membership is made up of college coaches.  Historically there was a serious move to have a 50/50  limit,  or half of scholarships allotted  to be reserved for Americans.  And, in fact, the voting college coaches approved this “quota” by a substantial margin.  While this recommendation passed, it was never implemented.   Why?   Number 4 or legality.   While the precedent for legal concern only has a  1970 track case as the law on this question,  there  were also  many behind the scene concerns  by the ITA.  Mainly there was the fear of a threat to withdraw from the ITA by many of large and successful schools and their coaches.  MY guess is COLD FEET stopped this effort.

Some are rethinking #4.  With only the 1970 track precedent, is it not possible to reserve  American monies for American young people?   Would the NCAA go to court on the issue? Is it true the NCAA is not a “state actor”, i.e, able to make decisions in the best interest of the organization?

Coach Bryan’s letter elicited  many strong comments from  American parents.  One included a similar core belief that I have been convinced  of, more so lately.  That being there is a direct correlation between very limited good scholarship availability equals very few high  quality American players.  In affect the NCAA having given not only American college tennis to internationals, but the opportunity to strive for scholarships and perhaps development into the high level players that are so missing at the upper level.

Here a  few comments and thoughts:

*ON DIVERSITY, XENOPHOBIA

My guess an American on a college tennis team would  aid roster diversity.  One coach said “…quotas would bring back discrimination against Jewish and African American kids. This concern was expressed in  the 80’s at an NAIA  national tournament with a draw of 256 players.  There were no Jewish entries,  and one black player,  Wayman Tisdale’s nephew.   I don’t think there was a Klan entry.   28 of the 32  seeds were international.

My team played one of the top teams in the nation that year at their place.  Match started  at 1pm on a beautiful Sunday.  Their coach stated half way through the match, that it was the best match they’d played at home.  Near the end of the match I asked if he’d consider recruiting a player from this state?  It was a state funded university, yet with a typical all international roster.  His response was “…Oh no! Our fans wouldn’t  tolerate a lesser quality of team!”   I couldn’t resist noting that there were three non-players in attendance–me, him, and his school’s financial aid officer.

I saw several schools who fit this description:   (a)  a very talented men’s all foreign team (b) a much lesser skilled all girls team with American players.  The girls stands were full, the men’s stands empty.  I am convinced that , other than at the top level of college tennis the only  American players  would draw any fans.  Parents, students, townspeople will follow familiar players.  On the flip side the parents are now very well aware of what’s going on  (“My kids have changed to Lacrosse” is typical commentary.)

Americans have proved the Academy System isn’t for them.  And there is evidence Americans especially don’t want to give up their kids.  No one cares about a player more than parents, coach or not./  Our great success has, in fact, come from a FAMILY model consisting of parental oversight, local pros, free play, tournament play, high school tennis, and college play  (witness Evert and Father, Connors and Mother,  Agassi, Chang, and on and on.  With 17 million USTA dollars producing very little, our recent best, John Isner and  Steve Johnson, came from the college/family development process.  The Bryans are similar family/college products.   Our colleges and universities spend 600 million dollars annually on tennis.  And we give that in foreign  to others children.  Fifty internationals with American college involvement  played Davis Cup this year for another country.  We lost to Croatia.

We are literally paying to train them, to beat us.

The USTA spent over half a billion d0llars to enhance the US OPEN.  We may soon have no one to qualify to play under the roof.

Physical size and speed and cultural changes have created a “blow back” from our two big money makers, Football and Basketball.  Bouncing off that wall ,where do our talented kids go?  Are we not in a position to get them to select tennis?  I can tell you it won’t be without college scholarships available.  Witness soccer, baseball, and now Lacrosse.  Or skiing, or worse–extreme sports.  The worst emerging choice is video games.

Being the proverbial  small fish in a small pond, I decided to direct my efforts to helping high school tennis coaches, players and teams.  See THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK of TENNIS.

With more scholarships available, more kids selecting tennis, there would be tremendous  benefit from improving high school tennis.  If nothing else, simply playing some twenty matches per season guided by a competent coach and enthusiastic teammates with the carrot of a possible grant-in-aid would help.

Other sports are following the same route or recruiting internationals. International basketball  grants for both men and women take away from our poorest population .  Fourteen top NBA draft picks were international.  Any international sport (golf, volleyball, cross country/ track and field,  soccer, etc ) will attract coaches and schools only interested in winning.  Coaches can’t be blamed, or entrusted to make change, given the threat of being fired.

In 1970 Title 1x became a deserved godsend to our women.  Soccer is the most widespread international sport, yet American men have never won the world cup.  Our women, since 1970, have won three times.  This year’s women’s roster included 23 Americans all of whom played college soccer on soccer scholarships.  Duke’s women’s golf team has finished first and second in NCAA GOLF, the last two years.  Neither year was there an American girl on the roster.  Was this the purpose of title 1x?

It is indefensible to give grants to international without admitting you just bumped an American.

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