NEW SOCAL TRANSITION PRO CIRCUIT TOUR
Tour Supervisor says the caliber of play is off the charts
CONTEXT: Aspiring Southern California-based tennis players have few opportunities to earn ATP and WTA ranking points without traveling to South America or Europe. To respond to this player development need, the United States Tennis Association’s Southern California section has announced a unique series of six pro events for men and six pro events for women to take place in Southern California this summer.
The SoCal Pro Circuit is a transitional tour designed to create a path to the pro ranks for up-and-coming professional, college, and high-level junior players (with all main draw and qualifying wild cards to each event going to American players from Southern California or attending university full-time in Southern California). The first three $15,000 tournaments – part of the ITF World Tennis Tour and USTA Pro Circuit – took place in San Diego County, with the final three events in Los Angeles and Orange County.
SoCal Transition Pro Circuit Tour Supervisor Cathy Jacobsen:
"The SoCal Transition Pro Circuit Tour got off to a fabulous start with the completion of the third event of the San Diego swing. We enjoyed a great turnout, and the caliber of play proved to be off the charts! Both the fans and players enjoyed watching and competing in these combined men’s and women's events featuring Southern California’s future tennis stars. The goal of The SoCal Pro Circuit, which launched this year, is not only to showcase some of the most talented up-and-coming Men’s and Women’s players based in and around Southern California but also to prepare these accomplished young athletes for a career in professional tennis. We are looking forward to the Los Angeles swing of events on the Tour, starting July 27 which includes three tournaments hosted by Jack Kramer Club, Los Caballeros, and finishing up at Lakewood Tennis Center. If you enjoy watching professional tennis at its best, come out and see Southern California’s cream of the crop in action!"
THE HEAD RETHINK PROJECT
Rethink Your Ball Choice
The HEAD e-mail message on 6/21: "We know you care about the planet. That's why we've developed a more sustainable tennis ball for coaches and recreational players. Not only is the package plastic-free, but the balls will last longer, reducing waste significantly. Did we mention the ball itself is also made of 10% recycled material?"
From the HEAD website: The semi-pressurized HEAD RESET Ball is a more sustainable choice for coaches and recreational players, delivered in a 4-ball carton made from 100% recycled materials.
Unfortunately, HEAD Reset balls are only available in Europe right now. Stay tuned for more announcements.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
USPTA World Conference back in the Big Easy September 18-23, 2022
CONTEXT: Racquet Sports Industry quotes John Embree in their July issue, "We had originally planned to host the 2020 WC at this location but because of COVID, we postponed it until this year. It was helpful that the hotel was ﬂexible to accommodate us this year. We were last here in 2015. And, as you may remember back then, it was a monumental moment in our illustrious ninety- ﬁve years when at that World Conference, the Executive Committee voted to relocate our World Headquarters from Houston to Lake Nona. On so many levels, that decision was transformative."
And the USPTA is apparently going all out to provide a memorable event. Besides an impressive lineup of speakers, the event calendar shows specialty courses, merchandise & trade show, general meeting, division parties, awards luncheon, workshops, Creole Queen River Cruise, XGLOSIVE Tennis Party. TE1/TE2 certifications, and (drumroll) two 4-hour sessions of Pickleball certifications.
One of the highlights of WC22: The induction of Dr. Jimm Loehr and Dr. Jack Groppel into the USPTA Hall of Fame.
2 x NEWS FROM CONGA SPORTS
1. First-time participation at a trade show
CONTEXT: Conga Sports, my new company, is creating a network of players, teaching professionals, and facilities in California with the goal of providing innovative and fun experiences for beginning and existing tennis players. Starting in 2023, Conga is planning to expand to other states with a target of being present nationwide by the end of 2025.
I'm happy to confirm that Conga Sports will be one of the exhibitors at the 2022 PTR International Tennis Symposium on November 10-14 in the Indian Wells area of California. For the first time, we'll be available to explain our strategy for the benefit of facilities and what we can do for participating tennis professionals in our network.
2. Tennis Ambassador - a first of its kind in the U.S.A.
CONTEXT: For the longest time, I've been dreaming about a way to help organizations and players that really need support. A large number of tennis nonprofits do an outstanding job in underserved communities with very few resources and you never hear from them. Their administration costs are tiny, salaries are often non-existent or laughably low, and they still keep plugging away often being the only connection some of the poorest kids have with meaningful exercise and development. I am very happy to report that I secured the help of three industry-leading companies whose executives think like me. Slinger, HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, and Billie Jean King Eye Coach. Under the leadership of Conga Sports, these three companies will supply some of their product to deserving recipients starting in July and from there on every month for one year.
Our press release will go out at the beginning of July but I can already tell you who the first recipient is: The Ace Project of Chicago - and now also Detroit and Baltimore. "Building Strengths, Empowering Communities" is their motto and that's what they're doing really well. Co-founded by Leah Friedman and Executive Director Susan Klumpner, the Ace team believes that "community members inspire solutions." Susan posts on their website, "Ace outmatches the cycles that limit opportunity and success by breaking down barriers for students, families, and schools."
I will be in Chicago on July 15 to hand over equipment to Susan. If any of our readers would like to help out defray the expenses a little, please do so here: https://gofund.me/a924fdd2. Thank you! This is a unique effort and I'm proud to be part of it! Thank you, HEAD, Slinger, and Eye Coach. Those companies really stepped up for an excellent cause.
US OPEN EXPANDING WHEELCHAIR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Men’s and Women’s Singles Draws to Double in Size
First-ever Junior Wheelchair Championships to be held during a Grand Slam event
From a June 22 USTA press release: The USTA today announced that the US Open Wheelchair Championships presented by Deloitte will again expand in size, with expanded fields in the men’s and women’s divisions and the introduction of the inaugural US Open Junior Wheelchair Championship. This is the second consecutive year that the US Open is expanding the wheelchair field, and this increase in field size for the men’s and women’s divisions is the single-largest draw expansion in Grand Slam wheelchair history. In advance of the 2021 US Open, the quad draw was doubled in size, increasing from four to eight competitors.
Very good, Jason Harnett!
THE MODERNIZATION OF TENNIS
'And yet, to fans of Real Tennis, nothing could be more vulgar'
Matthew Willis of THE RACQUET fame is one of the most talented tennis writers I know. His insights into the game, the people, and the tours are invaluable and I often share his analyses with our readers. Unfortunately, he just announced he's going "on hiatus" because he's apparently not enjoying it anymore. Too bad. To celebrate his work, I decided to repost one of his best articles, THE MODERNIZATION OF TENNIS which he published in 2020. It's very long but well worth the read. Enjoy it here.
USPTA IN TURMOIL - EMBREE UNDER FIRE
CONTEXT: It seems the turf war created by the USTA with their unfortunate and disastrous accreditation strategy, born out of the usual desire to control all of tennis, especially since they found themselves almost broke and in desperate need of funds, is raging uncontrolled. Some of our readers have already put John Embree under fire (see LETTERS to the EDITOR) and have started sending us information that is quite astounding. The mentioned number of USPTA professionals certified in 2021 varies from 14 to 21. Many people know something but no one seems to know everything. The fear of retaliation is real and a well-known USPTA method to keep members quiet. I was asked whether the fact that Embree didn't get the call to become the new USTA CEO had anything to do with the latest decision regarding not seeking accreditation. I didn't know and to be honest, I kind of doubt it.
John Embree June 2 on Twitter. Notice this clearly significant announcement had only 2 comments, 10 retweets, and 11 likes when I captured it on June 21. This begs the question: Is the USPTA losing its relevance?
Certifying only 21 people in an entire year is, of course, pathetic. It basically means there are significant issues Embree has to deal with right now and which surely contributed to his June 2 announcement
The annual churn rate of 1,500-2,000 members is creating an avalanche of lost tennis professionals which can not be stopped if he lets the USTA dictate how to run his organization. By now they must be so far behind I doubt they have more than 9,000 members left.
The USTA had subsidized USPTA dues for qualifying members in 2021 and for some also in 2022. Those subsidies have not replenished USPTA bank accounts significantly and they are most likely not available in 2023. It is my estimation that the USPTA may not be as broke as the USTA almost is at this point but they certainly have to draw on their $8.5M assets the 2019 tax return showed. Unfortunately, tax returns for 2020 or 2021 are not available yet.
The USTA accreditation did not add value to the USPTA brand.
And now I'm hearing that the USPTA was warned in 2020 to postpone the USTA accreditation until the USPTA, PTR, ITA, high school and parks coaches can work with the USTA to establish standards that will benefit the entire profession. A concerned member pointed out at the time that Embree indicated in talks at division meetings that there was reason to be concerned that when the accreditation goes through there would be an exodus of members who don’t see value in the USTA accreditation. And then the pandemic hit. The combination of this exodus with the subsequent economic crisis decreased USPTA membership even more.
I can only assume how bad the P&L looks like in the 2021 and 2022 tax returns but one thing seems sure: The USTA accreditation did not add value to the USPTA brand. That's why my conclusion is: John Embree and the USPTA Board made the right decision.
In fact, I would go a step further. I would get together with Dan Santorum and present a list of demands to Lew Sherr and Mike McNulty. Number one on that list: Stay out of the certification process. USPTA and PTR need to own that process!
The last item on that list: No more ads featuring USTA Tennis Professionals. This needs to be either a USPTA or a PTR pro or it should just say Tennis Professional. The USTA needs to pull its hands out of the teaching cookie jar.
Remember what I wrote in June? The number of unfortunate programs that died and have gone to the graveyard of USTA brilliance is endless and I expect Net Generation and USTA certification involvement to go there, too. And in February I wrote, I also challenge the USTA to give up hopes of total market dominance and figure out how to get out under this mountain of $750M debt rather than spending money in areas they have no business being in.
Am I right or am I right?
USTA MISINFORMATION - THE RUSE THAT KEEPS ON DECEIVING
CONTEXT: We have in the past posted countless stories about the USTA executives' favorite pastime: spending money and pulling wool over our eyes. Most often orchestrated what I usually call the "Tag Team Gordon Smith and Kurt Kamperman" who were the masters of spending money like it was growing on trees, the wool pulling and deceiving grew to Olympic size. One tennis friend pointed out that I should really name Katrina Adams as part of that tag team because she was President when they were spending all that money. And I think she's right. But wasn't it Kamperman who coined the phrase R&R for the USTA is "Rip Off and Replicate" as a standard process? Just look at the disaster that developed when they were trying to copy UTR to replace NTRP but gave it their own flair which ended up as the World Tennis Number. The result? Millions spent and NTRP is alive and well with no plan of being replaced. (See also LETTERS to the EDITOR this month)
When it comes to misinformation, the m.o. is always the same for USTA execs: Either spin a story so it looks positive (like for WTN or Serve Tennis or Net Generation) or don't report at all (like participation numbers) so it appears to be a non-issue.
The latest misinformation campaign the USTA spinmasters have cooked up concerns player development. And I'm not talking about the weekly Team USA email listing all American players in any of the ATP/WTA/ITF events. But it's the Team USA designation that is designed to make everyone believe these players have come up through the USTA Player Development department. Department head Martin Blackman is the figurehead for this campaign and he's doing a great wool job for sure.
Look, I don't know Blackman, never met him. He's probably a happy guy wandering the empty courts of Lake Nona. Gosh, I would be happy, too, making $600K+ with job protection by the Board and little to no accountability.
Look, I don't know Blackman, never met him. He's probably a happy guy wandering the empty courts of Lake Nona. Gosh, I would be happy, too, making $600K+ with job protection by the Board and little to no accountability.
So, MB succeeded to create this enigmatic entity TEAM USA, a title that was originally used only for Olympic and Paralympic teams, and turned it into something you and I are supposed to identify with USTA Player Development-trained future stars. Well, readers of TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS are best able to see through this charade, of course.
I asked someone quite familiar with PD and her answer was: "Of the players they have, they only have one real story, and it is Reilly Opelka. The only reason he plays is that he was the neighbor of one of the Gulliksons and he was also very tall. But if you follow Opelka he himself says that the USTA is a waste and quit them."
Hmm, the only thing PD is offering the U.S. players they like (!) is a place to practice when they're in Orlando. But, ask yourself, do we need a staff of 50+ and a budget of $15-20M a year for that? I would hire a bunch of U.S. coaches for a fraction of that money and I guarantee you, they would run those practice courts much more effectively. And these would be the best of the best, USPTA, PTR, and independent coaches. Do you want me to list some names, Mr. Blackman? None of them would demand $350K and more per year, we could cut 90% of your department and really grow tennis with it. How does that sound?
Another tool of the Team USA ruse is the awarding of the annual Team USA Developmental Coach of the Year honor. My friend called it "a brazen attempt at associating themselves with success." Using the name of Konstantin Anisimov or Corey Gauff to make sure Player Development gets good PR is not only a brazen attempt but also a sign they may have come under pressure in my opinion. PD is being attacked from a lot of different sides now and I assume TCB is the one with the least amount of clout in the industry.
Lew Sherr may be in a bigger conundrum than we all think he is. And no, it's not about a new Rolex or his next pay raise, it's the huge mountain of debt the USTA is under. Closing PD would save them, let's say $15M. Immediately. Money they could use right now. But, is fighting the good old boys on the USTA Board and joining Mike Dowse on his pasture worth it? On the other hand, if PD would go away, the courts at Lake Nona would look like the Sahara desert. Maybe that would attract a Saudi Arabian prince to bail out the USTA...
A well-known tennis coach from California described the USTA's misinformation campaigns: "Repurposing that wool could knit warm socks for the entire homeless population of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined."
I rest my case, your honor.
Repurposing that wool could knit warm socks for the entire homeless population of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined."
NEW TIA PARTICIPATION REPORT
$1,500 for bogus data? No, thank you.
CONTEXT: Every year, the TIA commissions Sports Marketing Surveys USA to create tennis data surveyed from 18,000 individuals during 2021 for the PAC study. I think those terms are all interchangeable and designed to shroud all this in mystery and give it an air of sophistication. I have maintained for years that the study itself is bogus because the numbers are too high and can't be supported by tennis industry trade numbers. However, the USTA pays for it and eats it up because high numbers give the impression they are growing tennis which they haven't for over a decade. When I ask where the ball sales are that support their numbers, crickets. "Ignore the noise."
The fact that no one ever questions or criticizes my reporting shows me I'm right. Here is the summary you need to know: They surveyed 18,000 people for the Pac Study in 2021. That's 1,500 per month. That number has to be divided into all the sports available (30-40?) and then also into gender, location, age, etc. If they surveyed more than 20 tennis players each month I'd be very surprised.
And here comes the kicker: The survey costs $1,500 for non-TIA members. I can't remember the last time I paid that kind of money for something that bogus. Oh, no, I do: NEVER!
WHY IS TENNIS ONLY AN AFTERTHOUGHT WHEN IT COMES TO TRADITIONAL FAN SPORTS?
Sporttechie Daily reports about any other sport but rarely about tennis
CONTEXT: I have only three go-to newsletters I'm reading religiously every workday: Morning Brew, Emerging Tech Brew, and Sporttechie Daily. The latter is bursting at the seams with the latest inventions, apps, and best practices in all major sports. From fan engagement ideas to crypto payment and reward schemes, every conceivable way of monetizing sports teams, personalities, and events is listed here.
Now here comes the weird part: tennis is rarely seen in that newsletter. When Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka invest in a startup, or when Andy Murray buys cryptocurrency, or when John McEnroe engages in Time Travel Tennis, those make the news but that's about it. How is that? I think I know why. Because the USTA is not investing in new and revolutionary ways of winning new fans to the sport. They are usually putting millions into lost causes like Net Generation or World Tennis Number. I guess the latest innovation at the US Open is a pricier Honey Deuce?
The USTA is not investing in new and revolutionary ways of winning new fans to the sport.
IS NUDE PICKLEBALL REALLY TAKING OFF?
Where do you put the balls when you're playing naked pickleball?
CONTEXT: Longtime newspaper humor writer Frank Cerabino is a pickleball player from West Palm Beach, Florida. He's also the author of "I Dink, Therefore I Am" and a contributing writer for the newsletter "Pickler." A reader sent me his article NUDE PICKLEBALL IS TAKING OFF with the comment, "This brings new meaning to the coaches who are advocates for visualization."
You can see that Cerabino has a quirky sense of humor when he writes that "...nudists want more pickleball – just like the majority of people who don’t do their dinking in the raw." Wow. And he continues, "Nude pickleball is beating the pants off its competition." He describes how pickleball developed at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, "...today pickleball is the most popular recreational pursuit at Cypress Cove, with 172 dues-paying nudists playing there seven days a week."
The nude resort tells people, just bring their tennis shoes. They provide the paddles and the balls.
Cerabino goes on to describe the Alpenglow Ranch, a nudist bed-and-breakfast resort in Bend, Oregon. He says, "Alpenglow Ranch put a pickleball court in the middle of its 50 secluded acres about five years ago. A lot of people book here just to play nude pickleball.” He ends by writing about Eden RV Resort, a nudist camping spot in the Pasco County community of Hudson in Florida, where about 30 people play clothing-optional pickleball every day. I'm not sure if listing three locations can already be called nude pickleball was taking off.
But we'll keep an eye on it. Somehow.
And as to tennis at the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort? “Nothing else comes close. Tennis is dying. Most of them have died off or hurt their knees. I think they have eight people left.” Ouch!
USTA GUIDE FOR TENNIS, PICKLEBALL, AND PUBLIC FACILITY NOT IN LINE WITH USTA SOUTHERN SECTION RULES?
FIRST came the news in the Tennis Industry United newsletter
The newsletter posted that "in an effort to provide assistance to decision-makers at park & rec facilities, the USTA in concert with park professionals recently created a set of suggested guidelines regarding tennis and pickleball courts, intended as a resource for park leaders." Go here for the guide.
THEN came the announcement by the USTA Southern Section
USTA Southern Tennis Lines Policy: With the recent USTA National statement of guidance for parks and recreation facilities on tennis and pickleball, please note the current policy in place for events in the USTA Southern Section remains:
“Tennis courts eligible for USTA Southern sanctioned competition, including junior and adult tournaments and league, must contain only lines prescribed by the ITF Rules of Tennis, as set out in the USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations.”
Courts that include both tennis AND pickleball lines are not eligible to host sanctioned events/play in the Southern Section. We will continue to explore options to collaborate with facilities and providers who wish to offer pickleball and help advocate for the construction of separate pickleball facilities.
Weird? Looks like it's either saying “Take that, Pickleball” or it was a big fat Southern middle finger for USTA national. Whatever it was, congrats to Southern for being pretty much alone right now standing up for tennis.
STRANGE USTA PRESS RELEASE
"USTA Grants Spark Sport Exclusive Live Television and Digital Rights to the US Open in New Zealand through 2024"
CONTEXT: We haven't heard from Lew Sherr since he became CEO of the USTA. Big decisions need to be made to ensure the financial future of the organization and to get the sport of tennis back to where it was a couple of decades ago: organic growth. And this marketing news about a relatively small amount of revenue is worth of him making a statement? "It's the perfect time to partner with Spark Sport in New Zealand, as they continue to grow and prioritize their tennis coverage within an ever-expanding live sports portfolio,” said Lew Sherr, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, USTA. “We're excited for the next three years and are looking forward to Spark delivering a high level of US Open coverage to the great fans in New Zealand."
What's wrong with that man? Is Javier Palenque correct and this is just an overpaid salesman working in an area he is comfortable in? Sales? Don't you guys think this is weird?
Btw, did you catch the title? They added "Executive Director" to CEO. I hope that doesn't mean he's gotten another $253K pay raise.
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