Living in South Florida is a great thing, fabulous weather year round and a Master 1000 tournament and a smaller ATP 250 event. The other night I had the pleasure of taking a few kids to the Delray open in Delray beach. Two top players were the event of the night, Ivo Karlovic #29 and Dustin Brown (#95). Of the two there is much to learn from both, in Brown’s case he can beat the worlds number one any day, problem is he can also lose with the worlds 800 any day. Though his unpredictability is unique and a trait so very hard to teach and communicate. Ivo Karlovic is a veteran who is top thirty and has a very good record and serve that is more like a guided missile.
The first impression I always get when I go to tennis tournaments (last year Indian Wells, Sony Open, Now Miami Open, Delray Open, Orange Bowl, UM college matches) is that the vast majority of the attendees or fans are over 55 years of age. The last tournament we saw a week ago was the Delray open. I kid you not, there were at best 100 fans in a 3500 stadium and 80 of the 100 fans were seniors. My son even asked me where are the kids? When I started to think about it, indeed my 10 year old is right! Where are the kids? Why don’t we see a coaches with loads of kids learning from the very best? Seeing a match, criticizing a serve, talking to the pros? Bus loads of kids everywhere, It is a kid sport after all, that we adults also enjoy.
In fact last year I even wrote to the Tournament Director of the Miami Open and asked him why is not every high school kid, tennis enthusiast here filling the stands? I never got a response. From my perspective, the problem is that tennis has a limited audience and it is not the audience that is young, loud and can make a tennis tournament fun. Weather we like it or not, tennis is a very expensive sport that is cost prohibitive for the majority of people and takes too long to develop the skill at a very steep price. This is a recipe for failure. Considering that the right attitude to play it well is to have the work ethic of a blue collar person. But, it is a white collar sport.? Where is the new Jimmy Connors? The new Williams’s sisters. What can we do? How can we help? What should our governing body do?
When I see the stands, I feel guilty of not doing enough for other kids, happy to be there, but overall truly worried that it just does not look right, feel right or seem to have a long positive outlook.
I know some readers will say, that there are kids days, and disagree with me. It just seems like we can all do more for our sport. So, next week when you are at Indian Wells, study the audience and when the week after you go to Miami and study the audience. Maybe you get some ideas as to what we can do as parents, coaches, and Americans. You may get that feeling I get, it just does not feel or look right.
We have to do something about it. We have to. Our kids and our country is losing out.
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