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We are allowing anonymous Letters to the Editor because we understand your position and have experienced USTA backlash to dissenting voices ourselves. Please be aware whenever a letter is signed with The Commish it's always a tennis director, a teaching professional, a vendor or a USTA insider who is in fear of retribution. Thank you. We look forward to the day when everyone can voice their opinion freely and without fear.

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CRITICISING TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS

"LIKE TALKING TO AN ALWAYS PISSED-OFF PERSON"

November 19, 2022

Rich,

I thought this letter was interesting.  I have seen a pro in Florida comment about the USTA haters. I have read a comment by a respected industry person who trashed Javier Palenque for always being so negative. I find both of these people to be equally offensive because of their self-righteous positive-only perspective. If people don't speak out, change for the better would never occur. 

The Commish

Everywhere, USA

Pronouns: They/Them

October 8, 2022

Rich,

Regarding the “Like talking to an always-pissed-off person” email you received and posted.

I could not agree with that letter less. In fact, the only thing that I found that was “pissed-off” or “divisive”. The USTA needs more—much more scrutinization, not less.

There are about 22 million tennis players in the country of which only about 700,000 are members of the USTA. Shouldn’t the USTA be asking itself why 95% of the players feel no reason to join the USTA?

What it says to me is the USTA has more interest in asserting itself in shaking down tennis clubs, facilities, and teaching organizations. In turn, these clubs and organizations get some benefit themselves (awards or certifications they can advertise) or are otherwise forced to accept some partnership (credentials) with the USTA just to do business. I personally don’t think the USTA (as an organization) cares a damn about growing the game as much as they care about growing the USTA. Not saying there aren’t any good people in the USTA or that the USTA doesn’t do some good work or has no value. Only that it needs overseeing. Just my humble opinion.

Now on with that letter--

If that letter writer thinks you are too mean or divisive, then I don’t think he or she could have handled Gene Scott and his ‘Tennis Week’ magazine very easily. Back in the day, ‘Tennis Week’ was a great magazine for tennis but I remember it well for the way it went after the USTA and its waste and mismanagement. In those days the USTA had problems, too, and needed a watchdog. That watchdog was Gene Scott. Gene Scott was a great player, promoter, and writer of tennis. He is in the ITF Hall of Fame and even has an award given in his honor (the Eugene Scott Award). One issue of ‘Tennis Week’ had, on the cover, the USTA’s tax returns!

And before you say, Gene Scott must have gotten fired by the USTA (otherwise how would one explain his view of the USTA?), Scott was on the board of the USTA for a while—where he learned a lot. After Gene Scotts’ untimely death in 2006, ‘Tennis Week’ was taken over by another publisher who changed the format into a very pretty but sanitized fluff piece (my opinion). That new format was never successful and months later ‘Tennis Week’ died a permanent death.

So, Rich, you are in good company. Gene Scott would approve.

Lastly, the letter writer didn’t offer any positives themself about the USTA except the old platitude “all the good work”. George Orwell once said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want to be printed; everything else is public relations.”

The Commish

Everywhere, USA

Pronouns: They/Them

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DANGEROUS PICKLEBALL HYPE

October 6, 2022

TIME: LeBron James Could Take Pickleball—Yes, Pickleball—to the Next Level

Rich,

I’m sure you already have read this piece but I'm forwarding it anyway.

 

More significant press for LeBron and his future role in Pickleball…our tennis industry needs to respond and develop more positive energy for the recreational player. This is getting to become an old record but there are no press releases of tennis generating enthusiasm for the game. The USTA should stop with the attitude and “Do Something” to counter the PB craze. Develop a counter-offensive and highlight a fresh and modernized game…make it easy to play.

 

Pickleball is fun and I enjoy playing the game but tennis has to stop “rolling over” and show what easy fun tennis can be. Tennis needs a new dimension…not so difficult to start and become an adequate player. I recommended new rules to you several years ago in your newsletter.

 

With LeBron's reach in branding and marketing, he’ll be the popular Czar and he’ll coordinate young kids to participate and be involved. His goals and planning will be a thorn in young tennis play. If LeBron places courts and portable nets in the neighborhoods similar to basketball goals in the home driveways, then tennis will be you know what… dinosaur extinction. Our American pro game has a new generation of more promising players…so now is the time to step up and put up a fight for our tennis sport. Our image needs an overnight “facelift” in my opinion... 

 

This is getting me worked up and I’m now going to “Deuce Something” to enhance our tennis sport…at least I’m going to give it a try.

 

Thanks,

 

Leo Estopare

Deuce Something 

Wichita, KS 

Rich,

 

Pickleball has momentum in the national media day after day. The tennis industry needs something creative and unique to grab some headlines…maybe City Slams will generate that curiosity and interest to compete in a fresh format.

 

The news outlets are coming very close to “jamming PB down our throat” with celebs and whatnot…the hype has turn-off some of my friends and they enjoy PB a lot.

 

Again last night, I saw another TV ad that featured tennis by the Humana brand. Corporate America still believes in our sport for the consumer dollars.

 

We need all those high-profile celebs in the Box Seats and Suites at the majors to say I really played well the other day and my groundstrokes were hitting the corners like never before. That would offset the new Athlete ownership groups in PB.

 

Imagine Princess, Kate Middleton on the Big Screen rallying with her kids and having fun on the grass courts…classy image. Include Anna Wintour in the mix and you have some real clout...Ben Stiller a.k.a. Mr. Cool double-faulting against Tom Cruise on the courts…blame it on a bad line call by David Beckham. Imagine all the high-rollers wearing Adidas Stan Smith white’s and wearing some Polo threads…now that’s a tennis look for the ages.

 

I know I’m getting worked up but just a little promotion and marketing could make a statement…all you guys out there,  tennis is still happening but you gotta showcase it.

 

Leo Estopare

Deuce Something 

Wichita, KS 

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

Pickleball will pass tennis by 2030.

 

Tennis is still a great sport and will always have more $$ and be exclusive.

 

Those are the facts.

Michael Dougherty

October 13, 2022

Rich,

Great article. I agree! I saw Rubin’s announcement this week and thought the same thing.

 

I am already counting down for this hype to be over. As much as more income would be great. I just can’t see myself coaching or adding PB to our Academy. It goes against my being. 

 

Tennis cannot and will not be replaced!! Ever. Especially not by noisy plastic balls and paddles.

 

Maria Paula Bagnati

bagnatiacademy.com

October 13, 2022

Rich,

Pickleball is stealing tennis courts at an alarming rate.

What is the tennis industry USTA USPTA stance on this issue?

Mark Robert Tichenor

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

Could not agree with you more. thanks for writing this. For the life of me I do not understand why tennis is ceding so much to pickleball. In the end, there will be those who will take pickleball away from the tennis powers that be and they will have gained a lot of infrastructure from the tennis people. Tennis will never recoup. 

JP

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

In an upcoming article, could you highlight the grand slam money payout in Pickleball compared to ATP or a week's work as a teaching pro? 

 

Don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors and the pickleball advertising hype. 

Michael Marquez

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

Good stuff as always amigo!  I too am not quitting my tennis day job anytime soon. I do feel pickleball is a very nice complementary sport to tennis though.  I have a number of Bent Tree members, whom I would've normally never met on the tennis courts, that are playing pickleball and enjoying their newfound sport at the club. Is pickleball taking over the Great Game? Not in my lifetime!  

Craig Bell

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

Reading your article on Pickleball.  Just to say.....   I love tennis but also now love pickleball.  Pickleball is good for a wider variety of people, especially seniors and people that have never played a sport.  I have my backyard pickleball court so not disturbing tennis court space.  I now have over 40 senior(ish) students that thank me every day for getting them out of the house, off the couch, and doing an activity that gives them great social rewards as well.  Even folks with aches and pains still come to play pickleball when they couldn't consider playing on the larger tennis courts.  So there is a niche for Pickleball.  Don't knock it.  And Again.  I'll never give up tennis either.  I do admire your passion for tennis and your efforts in our community. 

 

Best!

Patty Kirby

October 13, 2022

Rich, 

 

I can tell you the latest in San Diego.  Met recently with the head of Park and Rec. and the head of City Schools.   San Diego tennis players have been advocating very hard for tennis.  As you know, the Pickleball leaders have been pushing hard to take over as many existing tennis courts as possible.  Existing tennis courts are their cheapest place to build courts.  They do and say whatever is necessary, to try and steal our courts.  My last of many meetings with City officials was a plus for tennis in San Diego.  Park and Rec will not replace any tennis courts with an active club onsite.  This eliminates the P Ball dream of taking over Peninsula Tennis Club.  There will be a huge increase in Pickleball courts at schools.  Pretty much any new development at a school will have to include Pickleball courts.  

Geoff Griffin, USPTA

San Diego

October 20, 2022

Rich, 

 

Yes, why not buy the pickleball hype? Build more courts. Show more on the Tennis Channel. Buy teams. Put money in tournaments. After all, a sport that resembles more something played at family picnics (and was actually invented by bored children about 60 years ago) and can be played by anyone right away is a sport we all want to watch. A sport where the good players and bad ones look about the same is a sport that might better fit today's society that likes things instant and easy.

It takes years to get good at tennis but with pickleball, in about a month you could be one of the better players. I’m a certified (USPTA/PTR) tennis pro. It took years of playing and training, working to learn tennis, its history, and customs to be able to teach tennis. But in a weekend I could—even though I never played pickleball, become a certified pickleball pro. No joke. All I need to do is take a short course and pay some $$ pass the test and I’m a pickleball pro.

And why not buy into the hype since the tennis teaching organizations fully support (or seem to) the growth of pickleball at the expense of losing (or repainting)tennis courts? Just yesterday I got my latest issue of “RSI”. It was about 50% pickleball and 90% cover.

Talk to a pickleball player anywhere and within 5 minutes they will tell you pickleball is the fasted growing sport in America. What does it matter that over the past few years tennis has picked up more new and returning players than there are pickleball players in total? Tennis balls, shoes, and equipment flying off the shelves, (numbers from TIA showing huge increases in tennis sales)—but what does that matter? Shouldn’t tennis players be boasting about the strength of tennis right now? They don’t. Isn’t this what the USTA has always been hoping would happen? Why aren’t the USTA/USPTA/PTR all singing out loud and happy about these new players? Because tennis has been taught by its own industry that it needs “growing” like there is something wrong with it, like more money thrown at it for more programs-- but all pickleball needs are more courts to go with its positive PR.

What about the awful noise that pickleball makes?  That one court can be loud and aggravating but a few courts together at the same time and there’s nothing to compare it with except maybe hell on Sundays. Don’t believe it. What noise? Those angry homeowners complaining about the pickleball noise in their neighborhood are full of it. There is no noise.

And don’t believe it if someone tells you pickleball could, over time, become boring because it lacks the constant challenges tennis offers. I’ve already had a few pickleballers come back to tennis. They gave up tennis and got into pickleball pretty heavy—then returned to tennis. Why? Because they said they were just kind of bored after a while. They got good right away and had a lot of fun, but little by little it just got boring. Some felt they wanted more exercise than they were getting from pickleball.

I say all this in jest, of course. I like all sports-- including pickleball and like seeing people get out and exercise and have fun whether it's tennis or pickleball (or any other sport). Just please---USPTA/PTR stop- stop- stop promoting pickleball at the expense of tennis. These tennis teaching organizations have more interest in another revenue stream than they care about tennis (IMHO). Just get out of pickleball altogether and let pickleball form and run its own separate organization.

Martina Navratilova said it best— I paraphrase "Stop removing tennis courts. Stop repainting tennis courts. If pickleball is so popular, then it should be able to stand on its own.”

Finally, Rich, you are right. Tennis has a long history of ups and downs. Booms and slow periods. It has survived them all. I remember the racquetball boom, too. Wow, everyone was playing for a while. Clubs were building racquetball courts as fast as they could. For a few years, it looked like racquetball would never stop growing but it eventually did slow, and the hype with it.

Despite the help the USTA/USPTA/PTR gives, I think tennis will still survive another hundred years.

Just my two cents, Rich. Keep up the good work!

Keith Warner

(this has all been said in jest—mostly)

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SENIOR TENNIS TIPS

October 4, 2022

Rich, 

 

The Senior Tennis TIPS Facebook group I launched on May 6 has grown to over 12,800 members in less than 6 months all via word of mouth.  When I started the group I thought of seniors as the 55+ crowd, forgetting that “senior” in tennis effectively starts at about the "35 and overs" so the membership reflects a younger group than I originally anticipated plus the crowd I did expect. It has been rewarding! 

 

Thank for another great issue of your e-magazine. I appreciate the manner in which you care about the well-being of tennis from grassroots to the pros to the industry and the governing bodies. 

 

Keep Realizing Victory!

Kevin McCarthy

www.SeniorTennisTIPS.com

TV COMMERCIALS

October 2, 2022

Rich, 

 

It’s Sunday afternoon, so that means NFL all day on the couch. TV commercials are at a premium and hope to be eyeball-effective with sports fanatics. Lo and behold, BetMGM features Pickleball with actor Jamie Foxx and Barry Sanders an all-time great from Wichita, my hometown, in a fun-spirited TV spot. Last week tennis was featured in a UnitedHealth ad that was well done, and it highlighted an upbeat image of senior-age adults…cool vibe for our active-age players.

 

In your August issue, I brought up the Michelob Light tennis advertisement during the summer MLB All-Star game and that tennis needs to capitalize on these high-profile TV sports moments. Knowing that sponsors would soon be attracted to the popularity of Pickleball and its fanbase, the tennis industry needs to quickly get recreational participation into high gear as a counter-attack within our fanbase. The US Open was a TV bonanza last month but that audience is not day-to-day and that’s what we need for our game.

 

There have recently been other TV spots like Ozempic featuring Pickleball, so we as tennis people have our hands full keeping tennis as the most healthy and fun sport. Pickleball is lots of fun these days, so let's keep tennis with a popular image. Not only is there a “Turf War” for courts but now add TV ads to the mix.

 

If the data indicates tennis has five times more players than pickle, then our game has the momentum for continued growth. Like Roger Federer said last week, someday soon he could envision Tennis Centers as being all-purpose venues that feature all the racquet and paddle sports under one roof…that would be a no-brainer for an athletic hangout.

 

Tennis you have always been the recreational leader…so maintain your #1 ranking and get your racquet in hand and on the baseline.

 

Thanks,

 

Leo Estopare

Deuce Something…

Wichita, KS

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ONE QUESTION SURVEY FOR OCTOBER 2022

QUESTION

Are you happy with the TIA (Tennis Industry Association) and how they help your business?

RESPONSES

  • It’s impossible to say whether or not the TIA is “doing a good job” or not without reading its Articles of Incorporation, bylaws and mission statement, which might not have been amended in recent years. It appears the TIA has been changed over the years from an organization that creates, funds and executes tennis programs to a data-gathering organization providing suggestions to the various alphabet organizations. If this is what TIA members want, and this is what the TIA is doing, then we’d have to know what data they’re collecting and what they are doing with the analysis to rate the organization And we also have to know who (not what) the TIA is supposed to primarily serve. The “what” is obvious (the tennis industry), but the “who” is not. Is the “who” primarily the manufacturers?
    If so, then the racquet, shoe, apparel, string, court surfacing and other businesses who make up the bulk of the TIA membership (and pay the bulk of its dues) believe it’s not their role to advance the industry through hands-on program creation, funding and execution – hence the transfer of the Cardio Tennis to the USTA. If that’s their attitude, you can criticize the attitude, goals and mission of the TIA, but you can’t criticize what they are doing. They believe they should help “advance the economic vitality of the sport” by assisting (but not leading) the USTA, PTR, USPTA, ITA, USRSA, et al.
    So, until we know exactly what the TIA is and is supposed to be doing (per its bylaws), it’s hard to evaluate how they are “doing.”

  • They are a farce. They do nothing for the sport of tennis.

  • Too much USTA influence with dubious statistics.

  • They could care less about small academies.

  • I read their publications

  • They are a farce. They are a prime example of what is wrong with tennis.

  • TIA, and USTA do nothing to grow the game. Did you see the latest RSI mag? All pickleball

  • They do provide a service that I find has value information. I like to be informed as much as possible. Trends, what's selling (what's hot), participation numbers, new products, companies or innovations, changes in the industry, etc.

  • sports associations of any kind exist to SELL period. they do not exist because they help small businesses. the most advertised events these associations have are their conventions because that’s where they sell products.

  • Indoor commercial clubs do not get much support from any national organization. It’s very sad

  • They don't do anything relevant for the sport.

  • Kurt Kamperman sent us down the river and there is no way to get back...

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