I'm pretty sure I'm not the only American thinking 2020 may have been just a bad dream. However, no matter how hard I'm pinching myself, I don't seem to wake up. Hmmm. I'm walking around with a mask on, trying to not get too close to people. Do you know how weird this is for a guy who loves hugging friends? And tennis? California is the worst right now. And, despite me being a 'hobby chef' I love going out for dinner. Bummer. That and so many of our freedoms are severely restricted right now. That's why I went to Florida on vacation this year. Writing this newsletter from Miami. Yesss..
So our main hope is a vaccine that was created almost as fast as John Isner's serve, haha. I was disappointed reading the statement by the BNP Paribas Open: "INDIAN WELLS, Calif., December 29, 2020 – The BNP Paribas Open will not be held March 8-21, 2021 as originally scheduled. The tournament is proactively working with the ATP and WTA Tours as well as title sponsor BNP Paribas to confirm dates later in the year to hold the event. Details will be released in the near future as plans are finalized. This decision was made after thorough consultation with state and local health authorities and tournament owner Larry Ellison."
We are heading into an interesting phase of this young decade, aren't we? The economists say, "We anticipate moderate, but uneven global growth in 2021." Oh yeah? Well, I can only hope that all those people who ordered those millions of entry-level tennis racquets in 2020 are not tossing them for basketballs and skis as soon as the pandemic is done. More about this further down on this page.
By the time you read this, you will be done with Christmas and may have already tossed that outrageously expensive tree your kids thought they needed to have this year to the curb. All of us here at TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS wish you a very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year! For us, it'll be the 8th year in business after just now finishing number 7. Woohoo!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH
There are so many people I need to thank again. And the list is growing every year. Foremost our advertisers that keep us going and enable us to work maverick style. Our pledge is to never, ever toe the line and always keep putting their feet to the fire, folks. Thank you, HEAD Racquet Sports, for almost 6 years of advertising with us. It was Greg Mason, (I heard he is gradually doing better) who believed in us first. All the best to you, Greg. And thank you, Allison Barnett and the crew, for continuing to work with us. Then there is the PTR. Thank you, Dan Santorum, Peggy Edwards, and their great staff, for advertising with us. Thank you, Richard Burke of NGI, the company that takes care of your tennis court surfaces. Thank you, Joe and Kalindi Dinoffer of Oncourt Offcourt, Roger Stenquist of StonesNet, Tim and Ashley Owens of Courtreserve.com, Juda Honickman of SlingerBag, and our newest advertisers, Cameron Lickle and Alain Cohen of NeuroTennis.
And then there are our great contributors. Special thanks to the man who wrote so many articles for us from the club and staff trenches since year 1, Rod Heckelman. Thank you also to the man whose interpretation of data gives us all a different perspective on things, Gary Horvath. I always like to post content by Bill Patton, Scott Mitchell, and Ed Shanaphy. Special thank you goes to the man who is not quite a regular but always a man whose contributions are very popular: Javier Palenque. He is also hell-bent on keeping their feet to the fire until they start listening to him.
And last but not least, I want to thank those friends who work for the USTA in Orlando and in the Sections and are concerned about the direction the organization is going. I hear you and promise to call out problems again in 2021.
2020 would have been so much worse without you, guys. Thank you!
This month we are lucky that one of our frequent anonymous writers of Letters to the Editor, The Commish, is coming out of the closet - so to speak - offering considerable insights and wisdom. Cliff Drysdale Tennis shows us what a successful Doubles Bootcamp Experience looks like. Two very interesting personalities are giving us a look at their work in our Featured Interviews - Sarah Stone and Victor Bergonzoli. Our Feature Story points out how one of the USTA flagship programs, Adult Leagues, and Ratings, is in danger of being destroyed by rookie managers in Orlando.
Since we took the liberty of declaring 2021 'Latin Tennis Year' we have started adding relevant content. This month we're introducing tennis professionals from Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, and Costa Rica. And, very timely, Rod Heckelman wrote an article about those "Unsung Latin Heroes in our Industry.' We are introducing new tennis friends from Germany, the USA, Belgium, and India, and posting information about heavy criticism of the Norwegian Tennis Federation.
Andy Dowsett appears twice this month. First, we are featuring his Blog post on Smart Coaching and second, we're reviewing his new book 'System-9: Singles Tactics.' We are getting to know two very lovely tennis people, Tim and Ashley Owens of Courtreserve.com. Chris Hagman is giving us tips for Directors and Managers of medium to large facilities. Scott Mitchell has some Personal Development advice and our Job of the Month features an opening in beautiful Arizona.
MISSED IN 2020 - Padel and ATA
Two interviews with the head of interesting organizations didn't happen in 2020. The first one was with the President of the ATA (American Tennis Association), Roxanne Aaron. To this day I don't know what happened to her. I wanted to nicely incorporate that interview into my Altea Gibson story. The other one is the President of USPA, the United States Padel Association, Sergio Ortiz. I wanted to interview him for this month's issue but, again, here is someone who is probably overworked and underpaid. Maybe an organizational consultant should be advising them? How about it, Mr. Palenque?
USTA-BRG TENNIS INDUSTRY SUMMIT & GLOBAL SPORTS MATTER LIVE MEETING-OVERLOAD OF SOCIAL JUSTICE MESSAGES?
I took the time and tuned into zoom meetings organized by the USTA's Women's Business Resource Group (BRG) and by Global Sports Matter. The women participating looked confident and brilliant but for me focused a little too much on the social justice messages we've been hearing all year. Social/racial injustice almost dominated the sessions, trying to feed us what I'm really having a hard time seeing, that there is systematic racism in sports. I wished somebody could one day point that out for me?
The atmosphere was so charged with that subject, I cringed and almost felt guilty (not sure of what, though) when one of the women talked about a 'White Paper.'
How did they deal with the elephant in the room, the fact that viewership was down everywhere you looked at in professional sport? Laura Jordan (NFL) tried to tell us that the NFL ownership group very much supports the players on social issues. So, they are OK with drastically reduced revenues as long as highly overpaid football players can show us how serious they look kneeling during the National Anthem? Hard to believe, if you ask me. I'm scratching my head figuring out what the organizers were trying to accomplish. I'm also not sure whether they accomplished anything.
Naomi's boyfriend and his disgraceful social justice message
NEW - TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS WEB STORE
I know Christmas is over and you have all the gift shopping done. Right? However, how about a gift for yourself? Maybe you have problems sleeping through the night? Check out OmniPemf from Slovenia. I use it and found it really effective. Or, how about taking that Technical Analyst Certification Course now? It'll open an entirely new income stream for tennis professionals!
Our new web store has a small but high-quality selection of products and services. Check out Jack Broudy's Swing approach; Christina Mihaela Carare's offer to help you with social media; Oncourt Offcourt's teaching tools; TopCourt's teaching videos; and, of course, my book "Drop-In Tennis Secrets". I have extended the offer for a free book with purchase until January 31. Yep. Get them while they're hot, folks! Here's the link to the web store. Enjoy!
TENNIS ORGANISATIONS TONE-DEAF TO RACIAL INEQUITIES?
I hope that complaining about an overload of social/racial justice messages still allows me to report about the opposite, an industry that may be a little tone-deaf to the subject.
Racquet Sports Industry magazine published its annual "Champions of Tennis." Of the 14 persons awarded honors, 13 are White, and there is one African American. And who is on the front page? A White man. Nice. I'm aware that merit-based awards don't look at the racial makeup of candidates and that's a good thing. But you are telling me you couldn't have found more than one Black person with outstanding accomplishments in tennis? Come on!
The USTA Board elected another 'Good Old White Boy' as President. The Board consists of 11 or 12 White people (you never know how many people really are on that Board), 2 Asians, and 1 Black woman. Nice.
The worst 'offenders' is the Tennis Industry Association. The TIA has 21 Board members. All 21 are White. (18 men and 3 women). Let that sink in, folks.
Speaking of RSI magazine, an East Coast Head Pro called me and mused, "Why don't they just call it what it is, USTA Industry magazine? Mike may have great ideas and be a great leader. Why not put up a picture of the resurgence of tennis, as reported by TIA? Or post a picture of all the cheap racquets that the TIA claims have been sold? "
What happened in 2020, Mike Dowse?
Not sure what to think of the man everyone I talk to seems to hope he is the man to save the organization from becoming irrelevant. When he started his job he was pretty good at communicating and I appreciated that. But that getting-to-know-each-other period is over and it seems the USTA has gone back to the old Gordon Smith/Kurt Kamperman strategy ("ignore the noise"). We were promised a slimmed-down organization with new ideas and a streamlined approach. But what we have gotten so far doesn't quite look like it. All we're hearing is the questionable premise that a bunch of low-cost racquets sold means tennis as a sport is booming.
Player Development - now called Player & Coach Development
I am still counting a staff of 43 under Martin Blackman. I've been saying for years that PD should be abandoned completely. Sorry, Martin, but as hard as you tried, you also didn't produce any champions. And I'm not blaming you at all. But after throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at that department, nothing good has come out of it. SHUT IT DOWN!
And Coach Development? What do we have the PTR and the USPTA for? Is there anybody better suited to develop coaches than those two organizations? Save the money. I'm not getting tired of repeating myself every month: Those millions could go to grassroots tennis, Mr. Dowse.
The restructuring and shuffling of positions left us with how many staff? Looking at the latest org charts, I'm seeing people moved laterally and new positions added but very little cut.
Mr. Dowse, have you seen what's coming out of Community Tennis lately? The cash cow "Adult Leagues incl. Ratings" is being dismantled before our very eyes. As you may or may not know, the sections need leagues to work and prosper. But what your two rookie mnagers are cooking up looks like that memo hasn't gotten to them yet. Or, in their youthful millennial thinking, they may hope that giving everyone a medal will keep leagues alive. Nonsense! Please check out the feature article on Leagues and Ratings this month. Someone had to open your eyes to this sad story.
Where is the enthusiasm amid a resurgence of tennis? Where is the WOW factor? I don't see kids saying "Wow, I want to be part of that cool sport!" Where are the plans to make sure growth can be sustained and even increased when Covid is gone?
My suggestions, Mr. Dowse, to make good on your promises and save the USTA from potentially becoming irrelevant:
Eliminate Player and Coach Development completely.
Reverse the decisions made by Hawkes/Hughes and bring NTRP and NOG back. Shut down the WTN nonsense. Rehire experienced league staff.
Slim down your organization even more in EVERY department.
Take those approximately 75-100 staff that can be eliminated and send them out into every zip code of the United States. I suggest EVERY NON-ESSENTIAL STAFF MEMBER SHOULD BE UTILIZED TO ATTRACT NEW MEMBERS to the sport and to the USTA. Buy some big buses and give them colorful USTA wraps. Send them out to support the staff selling the country on tennis.
Have all those helpers spread the message of how cool it is to play tennis and how wonderful and healthy our sport really is.
Create some enthusiasm out there. I'm going to repeat that over and over again in 2021: I want to hear kids say, "Wow, mom, dad, I want to be part of that cool sport tennis!" And I don't want 78% of those kids leave the sport after "experiencing" liars and cheaters and have spent a ton of money at USTA tournaments.
I can only hope that all those people who ordered those millions of entry-level tennis racquets in 2020 are not tossing them for basketballs and skis as soon as the pandemic is done. I sincerely hope we won't find all those racquets in garage sales. What is the USTA doing to "capture" those players and integrate them into our sport so they can become lifetime tennis players?
Your SoCal Section
Are you aware, Mr. Dowse, what's happening at USTA Southern California, a section that once was the flagship organization for developing American tennis players? Do you know that they hired someone who turned out to be a rogue CEO who, in my opinion, seems hell-bent on destroying what a lot of very capable tennis personalities had built in the last 100+ years? What are you going to do about it? Do you know how badly this all reflects on the USTA? Can you as the national governing body of tennis afford to have tennis damaged in Southern California? How long will it take and how much money will it cost to rebuild this section?
To get you updated on what's going on in SoCal, please scroll down.
HAVOC AT USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
How long will the SCTA Board allow their CEO to continue a strategy of "scorched earth" ???
Several times in 2020 we had to report about questionable activities by a CEO whom the leader of a SoCal tennis academy is not exactly too fond of. He wrote, "Marla is a cancer !!! Tons of tennis people feel the same way." Taking on the job of CEO in February of 2019, Messing, an attorney by trade, had previously excelled in the U.S. soccer space and nobody really knows for sure why she wanted to go into tennis assuming that she will probably seek executive-level employment at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The question of whether she is just "parking" at the SCTA is being widely discussed in Southern California tennis circles. What we know is she acts as the biggest bully this office has ever seen. Henry Talbert may actually be turning in his grave right now.
Over the course of a few months, we reported about some of the CEO's activities. Highlights:
Getting her position changed from ED to CEO.
Taking all staff photos off the website.
Her "heavy-handed approach" making her the "most hated person" on the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus (quote from insiders).
Her statement on a Zoom call, "WE DON'T MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON USTA MEMBER INPUT."
Her firing of staff with more than 120 years of experience in favor of junior coordinators with close to zero experience.
Her unwelcome insertion into the community's fight to keep 16 tennis courts, beautiful park space, and a golf course with a driving range in the Los Angeles area.
Weddington Golf & Tennis
As many of you know, the last point is near and dear to my heart because the 16-court tennis facility in question, Weddington Golf & Tennis, is where I play and where I am part of a community group trying to prevent the new owners, Harvard-Westlake School, an independent, co-educational university preparatory day school for very rich kids, from taking down everything the community loves on those premises and turning it into a large athletic center with 2 football fields, pool, 3 indoor gymnasiums, 8 tennis courts, and underground parking. The entire construction project is supposed to take 2 years in which there will be no tennis courts available because they would be torn down. Since 2005 the community had been fighting the previous owners already who wanted to turn the entire property into condos with underground parking.
I don't know whether the information is true that Marla Messing's former employer, the Law offices of Latham & Watkins, are the lawyers for Harvard-Westlake. However, if it's true, it would explain why Messing inserted herself on the school's side while USTA members are fighting to keep the courts as they are. It almost looks like the USTA office in SoCal is played against the interests of USTA members. Not surprising, though, since she was heard saying "We don't make decisions based on USTA member input." An outrageous statement, if you ask me. For that statement alone, the Board should look at removing the CEO from her position, in my opinion. Or shouldn't they at least severely sanction her?
In September of 2020, Messing, contrary to the plight of her members, stated, "Harvard-Westlake is now the owner of the property, which is currently called the Weddington Golf and Tennis Club. As a private owner of the property, H-W can pretty much do whatever it would like with it. Having said that, we have worked closely with Harvard-Westlake to make sure that the courts, albeit reduced from 16 to 8, will remain open to the public. Moreover, the school is committed to being a great community partner, and providing a beautiful, environmentally sustainable facility, that will benefit the entire community."
Activists like me beg to differ, Ms. Messing. Owners cannot do whatever they want with a property. That changed decades ago in this country. They can only do what the community and the authorities allow them to do. And the new facility will NOT benefit the entire community, sorry. Only a bunch of rich kids whose families don't even live in our area. You have to go over the Hollywood Hills and into Beverly Hills and Bel Air to find those.
A New Twist
Last week, a concerned USTA member sent me a copy of a letter Messing wrote to the City of Los Angeles on October 16. I was shocked reading it and learning that she basically okayed the project in the name of the SCTA.
"We understand that Harvard-Westlake (“H-W”) will be reducing the number of tennis courts currently located at the facility from 16 to eight (8). We understand that in return, H-W will improve manifestly the environment and amenities associated with the various athletic facilities that they will build. And, we appreciate the commitment to these improvements as well as the costs that H-W will undertake to bring the entire facility into the 21st Century. We have respectfully requested that H-W maintain at least 10 courts at the River Park Campus, two more courts than currently contemplated. We have reviewed their current sketches and specs and we believe that they could maintain 10 courts, and still offer a clubhouse, plaza and putting green on the corner adjacent to the courts."
While it is certainly a good step to ask for 10 courts instead of 8, the entire letter is accepting the plans, a shot across the bow of the community that wants to keep the entire property with all its trees, tennis, and golf as is. And no one here really believes Harvard Westlake's promises to keep the planned 8 courts open to the public. They are already limiting the use and most of the over 30 professionals teaching at the facility have to look elsewhere for work. But - there aren't really any options within miles and miles from that town.
"Given that all pieces of the current River Park Campus plan could be accomplished with the addition of the two courts - again, from 8-10 - I hope the City will consider this request as it moves this project through the various processes and approvals."
I see the entire action as stabbing thousands of tennis players, many of whom are USTA members, and over 30 teaching pros working at that facility, in the back.
I also see the entire sad story as confirmation of what I've been saying for quite some time: With the building of the Kimmelman Mega Center (48 courts?) and the subsequent move of the SCTA's office to Carson, Messing may have no real incentive to help SoCal communities to keep their tennis courts. Could it be that she thinks players could just drive down to Carson and play there? I think players will instead just not play tennis anymore and work on getting (smaller) pickleball courts built.
Rage at the Office?
Yep, there is very little that goes on at the SCTA office that wouldn't come to our attention. I was told that a meeting was reportedly so bad last week, with screams and F-bombs, I can't even post the words here. If true, this is the kind of behavior you would expect from a meeting with Bobby Axelrod from Billions. Maybe. But a USTA office? Hmm. No wonder insiders tell me that the people involved in the Kimmelman project are so disgusted with the SCTA.
I am urging the entire USTA SoCal Board to take action and consider removing your CEO from her post. People keep telling me what's currently happening at the SCTA is damaging to tennis in Southern California and to the USTA.
BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION (scroll down for information on how to reach us)
I heard that Kamperman became the CEO of Tennis Nova Scotia in Halifax, Canada. Sounds like a nice place to retire. I wish him all the best. My question for Mike Dowse: Now that Kamperman is gone, are you planning to save Cardio Tennis from becoming as irrelevant as Net Generation by bringing Michele Krause back?
RIP Dennis Ralston and Alex Olmeda. Two of the great ones left us.
Are we really "all in this together?"
When I read a USTA employee's message on Facebook “we’re all in this together” I couldn't help thinking the sentence should be completed with "as long as you toe the line and do what we tell you!" I know he meant well, but I just couldn't help thinking that the message is way overused nowadays. Here's what I felt I had to post on FB a few weeks ago: If you missed not one paycheck you have no right to close our restaurants and say "we're all in this together!" Because we're not!
A disgruntled club owner on the phone: Bottom line, Net Gen seems to be such a failure. Has anyone heard about it in about a year? Is the USTA promoting it anymore? Can anyone identify any new kids the program brought into tennis? Other than as a background logo on a few things, does Net Gen even exist anymore? Would anyone, anywhere have backed Net Gen if they were told upfront it was not about "getting kids on the court and racquets in peoples' hands", and instead was about "curricula" (which there is plenty already) and "certification"? I bet not.
USTA and USOC
After reading the article"Snowboard icon: Sports are great with or without Olympics" a reader told me, "This is an interesting take from an athlete who has an interesting take on sports. Think back to the memo the USOC sent to the USTA about how athletes should be on their board. The USTA has adopted SafeSport because of the USOC. How many other things is the USTA doing because of the USOC?"
USP Virtual College Tennis Showcase
What was up with that event? Setting up a national event at 7 am Pacific Time may not be too wise but then not realizing that the registration function doesn't work is pure ignorance. And don't try to chat with them. The Chat window offered wasn't working, either. Hmmm...
Since Hispanics accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population growth, I would be interested to find out what the USTA is doing to get that demographic into playing tennis. Didn't Katrina Adams start some initiatives a few years ago? We here at TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS have decided to declare the year 2021 as LATIN TENNIS YEAR. Yep, and we love our Hispanic readers. We're starting out this month by featuring some Latin tennis professionals in South/Middle America and the Caribbean. Next month we'll follow up with Latin pros working in the United States.
If you have information worth mentioning in this BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION forum, please contact Pat via email. Leave name and phone number if you want us to get back to you for further clarification. Anonymity is guaranteed. Thank you!
Andy Dowsett - for an interesting article about the LTA and tennis in the UK. Check out the grades he gives at the end.
Fuzzy Yellow Tennis Balls - for being safer than previously thought. On November 1, this study was completed indicating that tennis balls are unlikely to spread c-19.
Novak Djokovic - because World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been named the fourth-best European athlete of the year by a panel of 25 European news agencies.
Female Tennis Professionals - for growing as new subscribers to TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS in 2020 from 8% to 15%. Woohoo! Almost doubling last year.
Daniel Gal - District Sales Manager for Head/Penn Racquet Sports in Southern NJ, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In our opinion, he is what grassroots tennis is all about. Just look at his LinkedIn profile.
International Tennis Hall of Fame - for three great articles on their website. One about the ATA and Black Tennis Pioneers and the others are obituaries of Dennis Ralston and Alex Olmedo.
David Fish - for being honored with Tennis Educational Merit Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Tulsi Gabbard - for being a level headed individual when it comes to human biology. She introduced a bill that would ban Trans women and girls from female sports.
Reno Manne - for writing a kick-ass blog post about Billie Jean King: Is BJK too bossy?" Reno and I think alike. Although I respect and revere some people doesn't mean I couldn't criticize them.
Oncourt Offcourt - for this great post about "The 6 Keys to Getting the Most out of your Tennis Ball Machine."
Leslie Allen - for being an African American woman and going through an entire 20 minutes of a nice interview with Mark Jeffrey without pointing out social and racial issues in sports once.
Tennis Club Business is the only tennis business newsletter that calls out the failed policies and programs of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the 17 USTA Sections, the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), and the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Our motto: MAVERICKS DON'T TOE THE LINE.