Our Kids Need More Opportunities to Play    

This week I saw an article that stated that 32% of college scholarships go to foreign students, when I saw that I can’t hide that anger was my first reaction.

How can that be? We have fewer kids playing tennis here, attrition rates that are atrocious (double digits), a great market for continued play at the college level and 1/3 of the slots go to people who don’t live here in our country?

Image our normal Miami neighborhood, great city warm weather all year, sunny almost every day for every 10000 kids that we have only 200 play tennis, of the 200 after a few years we will lose 75% of them due to the cost and tennis structure of the game that means we will have only 50 kids left. Of the 50 left the odds of them playing DI or DII tennis are 2.4% (see stats). Ok from our original 200 pool of kids only 5 will play college tennis? In essence we lose 195 out of 200. For those interested in the math we lose 97.5% of our kids to go to the college level.

This seems unreal, how can we lose 97.5% of our kids and foreigners get to take 32% of the college slots?

That in essence means that for every 4.5 men’s college scholarship 1.5 goes to someone overseas and for the women of the 8 available approximately 3 go to someone foreign. This is madness, at this rate the sport will cease to exist.
Now, let’s look at the scholarships:our kids1 1024x576 - Our Kids Need More Opportunities to Play    

As you can see only DI and DII offer scholarships yet there are plenty of DIII opportunities to grow the game: our kids2 1024x576 - Our Kids Need More Opportunities to Play    

From my point of view as a dad and defacto coach, losing 2800 college spots (DI and DII) to foreigners is unacceptable.

As throughout the years we know many kids that could have easily earned one of those slots and quit the game in the process. Another way to look at the 2800 lost slots is split them in age groups 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U (2800/4 =700) that would mean 700 slots per age groups that we are giving up.

You mean to tell me that if you are among the 700 kids in each age group we as a country lose you and those spots go to foreigners? Why do we lose you again? To even further top that off, DIII can offer 2288 slots for further college play that go to foreigners, why do we accept this?

SO MANY KIDS CAN GO to DIII sports if they stuck to tennis. Imagine a 512 draw in each category (12’, 14…) each one of those kids should be on a path to a scholarship and still have plenty of room for the foreigners. Fact is there is never a 512 person draw in any category. Why do we lose them?

For coaches: How can we accept that we lose so many kids? Those kids are your customers, those kids children will be your customers. GROWING THE GAME HAS TO BE PRIORITY #1.

For kids: Demand more playing opportunities through your parents, tennis is supposed to be FUN, not a bore. It has to be where you compete daily and weekly and have fun in weekends and play and play.

For parents: Educate yourselves, learn what mistakes to avoid, follow blogs, talk to other parents, start thinking in terms of a TEAM not your kid alone.

For USTA and its leadership you cannot look at these numbers year after year and continue with the same competitive structure that reduces the pool of people? We are losing our kids, our playing opportunities, our game. Am I the only one that sees this? Then we wonder why we don’t have kids that exceed at the sport at a world class level?. I will tell you why:

  1. Because we do not work together, parents, kids, coaches and the USTA
  2. Parents education for the sport is nonexistent, yet USTA has no programs for them.
  3. Coaches education is random at best. FIX IT!!!
  4. USTA tournament structure is from the past not adjusted to the reality ( remember Blockbuster video?)
  5. USTA fails to understand who its customer is? it is the parents ALL parents not those small number who believe their kids will be pros. They will not and you know it.
  6. It is simply too expensive.
  7. USTA player development #1 mission should be to grow the game for ALL, not search for the next FEDERER. Simply because champions are built with small family TEAMS. No federation can build a top player. NONE.
  8. Tennis is a team sport played individually, why don’t people understand this?

As more tennis programs in college will be cut given these numbers, then the playing opportunities will further decline. Accepting this outlook for our sport and our kids without doing something is insane, irresponsible and malpractice to our sport, our youth and their opportunities.

We need to grow the game for our kids, their youth and our country. USTA where are you? Where is the vision for the future. Key Biscayne has 26 courts, 2 red clay, 4 green clay, 18 hard courts, it used to be the USTA training center a few years back. Most of the courts are empty most of the time.

Having built in Orlando a facility 4 times bigger or 100 courts in Orlando that are used 15% of the time or less sounds good if you can make it work with 85% of the time being empty. I am sorry, I rather have more kids playing day in and day out at every park, school and weekend tournament.

I want the USTA to call for a summit to save tennis where parents, coaches and the leadership can LISTEN what other ideas are needed. Personally I rather see more kids not quitting the sport, and certainly want to see more US kids playing college tennis.

Who reading this does not agree with that?

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Comments

Our Kids Need More Opportunities to Play     — 10 Comments

  1. This is one of the strongest and most perceptive comments I have seen on this blog. I will comment on this at greater length over the next few days in the spirit of continuing what is an essential conversation for those of us who are concerned about the issues brought up in this piece.

    The USTA itself is a severely dysfunctional organization. In the aggregate I contend that it has an overall negative impact on the game of tennis. One of the larger questions that should be considered is that of even spending (or wasting) time trying to reform the USTA or is it better to take our efforts and resources and initiate programs/tournaments etc., that function outside of the USTA.

    I would also contend that the issue of scholarships is not really so important excepting as an indicator species. That piece of the puzzle is an effect not a cause.

    In any case, excellent piece and a conversation that is long overdue.

  2. Thank you for reading the article, if you can share it it brings light to the point I am trying to make. I agree with your last point that the scholarships number are one of the many metrics we should use. I do take your point, maybe its time the tennis system in america needs a UBER or a AB&B. It is in the hands of those who are truly interested and see the value of the game.
    Stay in touch and I will be waiting for your further comments.

  3. I’ve been saying this for years! I am from Ojai, and have attended the Ojai Valley Tennis tournament since 1986, which has housed the PAC-12 tournament. I only took up coaching because I love the sport, leaving another prosperous career behind. I have seen nothing done by the USTA in the last 10-12 years that would enhance tennis for young American players other than make the sport MORE expensive with less opportunity. Their definately needs to be better communication between the USTA, coaches, and colleges to create more opportunities for American kids.

  4. Ranger
    Thank you for reading the article and posting a comment. The reason for writing it is precisely because I feel we lose more and more players every year and it needs to stop. Maybe we can get a few people to listen and make a push for a change.

  5. THE USTA IS THE BOYS CLUB IT’S BEEN LIKE THIS FOR YEARS.
    I’LL SAY IT AGAIN LOOK AT ARGENTINA, HOW THEY GOT THIER PLAYER AND COACHES TO BE TOGETHER EGO ASIDE AND DEVELOPED A POWER HOUSE.
    THEY HAVE BEEN IN DAVIS CUP GROUP ONE FOR YEARS, BECAUSE THEY ARE TOGETHER.
    THE BEST PLAYERS ARE DEVELOPED BY PERSONAL TENNIS COACHES, NOT BY THE ASSOCIATIONS USTA, TENNIS CANADA.
    GIVE SCHOLARSHIPS ACCORDING TO PERFORMANCE, THEN HELP OUT THE KIDS THAT NEED IT,IF THEY MAKE IT MAKE THEM PAY BACK, IF THEY DON’T MAKE IT THEY CAN WRITE IT OF AS TAXES. JUST AN IDEA. THEY DO IT IN SPAIN.
    THE KIDS FROM 10’S-14’S SHOULD BE PLAYING MORE TEAM EVENT INSTEAD OF
    INDIVIDULE SPORT ONLY.
    I COACH CTC(COMPETITIVE TENNIS CAMP)TEAM EVENTS THAT TAKES PLACE IN CALIF. THE KIDS LOVE IT. BOTTOM LINE IS GET OFF YOUR BIG A……ES AND CREATE TENNIS WITH MORE FUN.
    AS FAR AS COLLAGE GOES THE FORGIN STUDENTS ARE MORE HUNGRY THEN THE AMERICAN KIDS.
    THEY WANT TO IMPROVE THEY ALSO WANT FREE SCHOOLING TO THEM THAT IS FUN.

  6. Marc
    Thank you for your comments, indeed Teams and competitive ones are one of the solutions that we need. Solutions for our problems is what we need. Foreigners in my opinion are welcome, but that still does not mean that we should lose so many of our kids slots to continue to play after the juniors. because that is also a way to lose people in the system.

  7. As a tennis parent, I no longer even dream of getting a some sort of scholarship. I still support my son because he loves the game and loves to compete at the highest levels.
    I can’t tell you how many of his friends parents gave up after seeing how much money it takes for very little chance at college tennis/scholarship.
    That is lost business for the tennis industry as a whole.

  8. John
    Thank you for reading the post. This is in my opinion the failure of USTA. It looks frantically for the next Agassi and destroys the thousands of people that will never be and instead of making it fun for the majority they make it dreadful so kids quit. Problem is they don’t know how to listen. The funds come in if they waste them or if they use them wisely. So they never have a sense of the value of time and money, because if they did, they would change the dynamic for the benefit of all.

  9. Do you really want to know why US universities and colleges invite foreign players?

    It is only about motivation and willigness to play. I am reading here and there “USTA is bad, Tennis Canada is bad…”

    Guys, you can’t even imagine how GOOD your tennis associations work. You are in Holy Graal/Eldorado if you compare what you have and what Croatian, Ukrainian, Romanian or Polish junior players / parents can get from their federations.

    Look at this girl: sashkatennis.com She is playing ITF Juniors Grade 1, 2, being inside top-500 ITF Juniors world ranking. On tournaments she has 3 rackets, sometimes she does not have money to re-string her racket, and asks stringers to do it for free. From being 14, she travels mostly alone as her parents can’t allow to travel with her. She does not have coach, as they can’t pay to. Sometimes she slept on railway and bus stations to play the tournament. Being a U16 national champion of her country, she never got anything from the federation. But she is still playing & improving her results!

    That’s why university coaches welcome foreign players. Most of them are ready to die on court. Just a few of American junior players are ready to do the same.

    And please, please respect – really respect – what you have (I mean USTA & Tennis Canada as well). You do not know what POOR & BAD national tennis association is.

    • Dear Anton

      Thank you for reading the article and voicing your opinion. I agree that compared to other countries our Federations is probably the better one. No discussion there. However if all our bad, I do not think we need to say its ok to be the better of the bad federations. Specially if the one we have is the richest in the world and produces the least amount of players in the world. Year after year we see the same results and no changes take place. This is bad.
      Foreign players are welcome because the American players have options and don’t apply themselves, as the foreign ones. I welcome the foreign players but only after we have done all we can for ours.