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Javier Palenque

Javier is a Global business consultant based in Miami, with an MBA from Boston University and Executive studies at

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Northwestern Business School. Global expertise in supply chains, distribution, foreign markets, family businesses, and business transformations. A D3 player when young, Javier has been involved in tennis for all his life.
An avid photographer and a defacto tennis coach, he writes articles often trying to influence the direction of tennis in the USA. His mantra is to make sure tennis is accessible for all who want to play, regardless of income level.

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Grandpa, Technology and the USTA

By Javier Palenque

Holding USTA feet to the fire

For those who follow me, you know that many times I compare the USTA with grandpa, you see grandpa is stuck in his ways and ideas and has a really hard time adjusting to the fast-paced world we are in, it is as if he tries to keep the growth in the world and technology from moving on just to hang on to the world he once knew ( no one watches TV grandpa!).

 

Sadly, the parallels with the brilliant USTA are the same. The thinking is unfortunately old, no longer relevant to our reality and in fact in the way of progress ( translation, unable to connect with the new reality of American demographics). This is why and how the USTA is set up to have already missed the largest two population groups in the country Millennials and Generation Z. This of course under any competent leadership is simply unacceptable, but in the good old boys club, it's no problem. Any shareholder would have the head of the leadership handed to him for lack of performance, at the USTA the opposite is true.

If we want to attract a younger population of people (under 45) to play the sport and use technology for that purpose ( this is how people connect today) what does the USTA have to offer these people?

  • A dead website ( not interactive)

  • No apps of any value to the user.

  • No way of engaging the community overall.

  • A horrendous tournament software.

  • No way of communicating directly to the powers that be to help them fix the ineptitude that governs the organization.

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If we want to dig a little deeper why do you think that is allowed and how can the opportunity of the new demographics be missed and to top it off to miss it with hubris (typically overconfidence and arrogance of ignorance)? The answer to that simple question is because the organization is accountable to itself, and when organizations don't live and die by the market choices of its customers or donors but rather by the welfare (financial support given to people in need) that the US Open provides, then the human dimension that rules the organization is politics as opposed to competence.

 

That is a sure way to bring the most incapable people to the top of the organization and to have no accountability to the mission which is to grow the game. If the message from the top is politics is OK, then every manager or head of a department runs under that same dumb premise, this is how bureaucracies work and foundations corrode and fall. Keep in mind that some traits to succeed at politics are: lying, deceiving, making false promises, hiding your true competence, lack of moral high ground, self-interest and never keeping promises among a few.

The executives are the beneficiaries of this system and all their mistakes are easily hidden by the system of ineptitude. This way people simply look the other way at obvious problems and limitations of the leaders and play the politics game as it has been deemed by leadership as the way to progress in the false nonprofit company. This is a very simple business problem that can be fixed in minutes by capable people, the problem is no one wants to make the choices required to fix the sport and the choice is then to pass the fixing to a new generation.

 

The sad part is that for every day that the problem is allowed to persist, the fixing of the problem becomes more expensive, and if the two youngest population groups are missed, who will bear the cost of fixing it? the answer is no one. This can help you understand why they make up participation numbers and reports and when asked to provide participation numbers in detail, the organization refuses to do so. This is the clearest form of lack of accountability and deception coming from the top. I wonder what Senator Blumenthal or Moran thinks about this, they run the consumer ethics committee in the senate.

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What would be the quick fix? Here is an idea from the competence point of view:

1.- We have to grow the game in each zip code, measured by age, gender, and retention. The numbers have to be published for all to see. We let the sections compete for money and ideas or they are out of a job. It's called the marketplace. Someone in the PR department will have to explain to the head of ESPN why the numbers are so low, now that the TV rights contract is up in the next two years. Remember ESPN paid $10M more per year over CBS for 11 years. I can assure you ESPN is held accountable.

2.- No politics allowed. Sorry old boys, when the source of your power comes from politics, it means you have no idea of the cost of it and therefore make yourself unqualified to run anything. You simply do not have the capacity to understand the problem, much less solve it. We need competent people running the sport, preferably individuals who understand costs and revenues, and a simple mission to "grow the game". It is not hard, but it takes cojones!

3.- All employees would be working on a year contract that may or may not be renewed. It will be renewed only if proof is given that the game has grown by the area of their responsibility. Sorry player development, you would quickly disappear as would half of the rest of the organizations' employees who have mastered the art of non-accountability and failed to understand the simple three words "grow the game". Enough riding on the welfare of the US Open, you need to earn your salary.

I love my grandpa, but he has retired long ago. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity of thinking at the highest levels of the USTA is the cause of the demise of interest in the population overall and the old thinking is what remains in the organization, so if no one with different views is allowed to confront the poor prevailing thinking, what do you think will happen? Correct, nothing! we now live the results of nothing, this means stagnation and the need for deception and misinformation. This does not look promising to anyone.

Maybe, grandpa thinks the world will not change, if he only realized that no one watches TV, listens to the radio, reads newspapers, and same-sex marriage is OK, maybe he can see what is needed, unfortunately, the brilliant USTA will remain the worlds' best-funded sports nonprofit, with the honor of having the least amount of kids and oldest adults playing the sport and once again behind the curve.

Until when are we going to allow this to be done to our sport? Just imagine having no technology initiatives for the past 20 years in the internet and community era? It's called a crime to the sport! If I am mistaken, please someone show me the links to the brilliant apps? In case you have forgotten when the leaders of the USTA allowed such negligence to go unpunished, the marketplace created UTR. Let me predict the future for them, they are not going down, wait till adult leagues adopt this, this means a drop of income to every section? how do you plan to make up for that possibility? with more politics or competence?

I say NO to ineptitude and YES to growing the game!

I can be reached at jpalenque@yahoo.com

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