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THE GOOD

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USTA FLORIDA HURRICANE RELIEF FUND

Hurricane Ian victims get help from Florida tennis

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USTA Florida ED Laura Bowen wrote: I wanted to provide an update, in case you want to include it in your next edition:

 

  1. USTA Florida President Phil Girardi hosted a concert fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 11th, in Orlando.  We are still awaiting the final monies raised, but it should be more than $12,000. (last number $17,000)

  2. The Hurricane Relief Fund will be the exclusive focus of our #GivingTuesday campaign this month. 

  3. The USTA Florida Board voted on Sunday, Nov. 13th, to commit up to $250,000 to the fund.  Those dollars will be released on a rolling basis after the parameters of the grants are finalized.

  4. The USTA Florida Foundation Board is working through the parameters of the grants.  Those will likely be confirmed in January.

 

We will have a new release in the next month or so with this information and the grant parameters.  I’ll make sure you receive that.

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TIC - TENNIS INNOVATION CONFERENCE

"The Future of Tennis depends on Systematic Innovation"

CONTEXT:  The scope of the 2022 TIC was "To highlight the latest Innovations within the scope of Leadership, Sports Technology, Player Performance, Talent Development, Methodologies, and Fan Engagement." After quite an interesting TBD Tennis Innovation Week in 2021, expectations were high for this year's event. And the organizers Fernando Segal and Carlos Salum did not want to disappoint considering that most of the really well-publicised innovations are not in the tennis space at all. Over 33 speakers spoke about their work and their vision for the future of the tennis industry.

Besides those people that understandably tried to only promote their app, book, or service but have no realistic vision of the future, we saw a number of speakers with new ideas and visions that make sense and seem doable. Nothing groundbreaking, though, as far as I was able to see. A lot of speakers talk about the need for innovation but it seemed they didn't really have anything new to contribute.

Of the presentations I saw, here are the ones that stood out for me:

CiCi Bellis
The former WTA Tour player has unique insights into the world of tech deals. As Investment Analyst at leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners in Lake Nona, Florida, she is able to observe the sports tech deal flow! Guess what, a lot of new ideas being developed to help tennis grow come across her desk. I'd say leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners is a good address to keep in your Rolodex (Oops, I meant Nimble, sorry.)

 

Wade Floyd

Wade Floyd describes how CoachTube empowers coaches to share all of their content with the world and increase their disposable income on and off the court. With 217 tennis coaches on board and 245 courses, CoachTube is one of the leading providers of tennis education.

Gregory Gettinger

While I am a man of tennis on a real court, I also believe that virtual reality will be able to help tennis grow by motivating more people to play our game. The Founder and  CEO of VR Motion Learning gave me a personal demo of his system last year and I was impressed. Tennis Esports presents authentic tennis with real ball physics in virtual reality. The possibilities for this technology are endless. Mr. Gettinger is getting there!

Swupnil Sahai

The Swing Vision CEO says that "SwingVision is on a mission to democratize the pro sports experience for all athletes. They accomplish this with our mobile A.I. platform that generates pro-quality stats, TV-quality highlights, and objective officiating, using just a single smartphone." I was thinking about Swing Vision just as a line-calling app but our friend Bill Patton corrected me. Apparently, the stats created by this app are a very powerful tool for any teaching pro. I take your word for it, Bill. Very impressive stuff, Swupnil!

Mike Sorgenfrei

The man with the German name that means 'carefree' is the co-founder and CEO of Encore, mastering the art of fan engagement and loyalty. Encore turns identity into a digital asset. In layman's terms, they're enabling brands to directly reward users in exchange for their data. Two potential clients immediately came to mind listening to Mike: ATP and WTA. I bet they would pay a pretty penny to become carefree and worriless.

Brian Teacher
The 1981 Australian Open Singles Champion is the founder and CEO of Full Court Tennis (FCT), a platform that not only improves strokes and game concepts but also provides a marketplace for coaches that improves the learning relationship with students and parents. Impressive app. The man knows what he's talking about. He's not about a bunch of theories nobody can follow, he's seen and experienced it all on the court. And it shows. The man can teach us a thing or two!

HONORAY MENTIONS
For Chutzpah: Haitham Eletrabi - he's talking about a tennis ball pick-up robot (tennibot) that was invented in 2016 and presented at a 2022 conference for new innovations in tennis.

For boring the audience to death: Iztok Bombac

Iztok spent 15 minutes reading from a screen about the Armbeep Tracker. I will never get those 15 minutes back.

For much talk but no obvious innovations
A lot of nice people that presented little substance you and I can use right away.

My takeaway: One sentiment was apparent throughout the event: Tennis is behind the curve in technology. As an avid reader of  SportTechie Daily, I have to agree. My estimate is that about 95% of all innovations in sports are not related to tennis. And that needs to change! I applaud Fernando and Carlos for making the effort and putting those solid events like Tennis Innovation Week and Tennis Innovation Conference together. It's an uphill battle because the big money is not in tennis. Yet. That may change at one point in the future. Hopefully.

BOOK REVIEW

"Recipes for Tennis - How To Prepare A Tennis Game That Will Impress Your Every Opponent"

Author: Mike Sprengelmeyer

Sprengelmeyer, a 30-year USPTA member, comes with a bunch of accolades and even more hands-on experience, most notably as Director of Tennis (Florence Country Club) and Tournament Director (Pepsi Junior Open). His booklet "Recipes for Tennis" is a quick read and looks like the perfect stocking stuffer this coming Christmas.

The author uses lots of analogies in his book, such as, "Building a solid tennis game is much like a building contractor that sets out to build a house." What does he need? He lists the materials and tools. The tennis player is attempting to build a successful tennis game. What does he need? He lists the materials but points out that he doesn't count a racquet as being a tool but rather the variety of strokes he will use while competing. He expands on this and adds one more tool: a player's mind.

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Sprengelmeyer goes on to dissect and explain all the strokes in your toolbox together with those analogies he loves to use. Like, "Tennis is dancing" and "Tennis is physical chess." He also elaborates on his theory of "developing a tennis game into a tennis mountain that nobody wants to or knows how to climb."

I personally liked his bonus chapter "Back to the Wall" because I'm a big believer in using a back wall to practice your tennis skills. He's concerned that players often have not been taught the correct way to practice hitting against a backboard or rebound net. He explains the what and how and why and ends by suggesting that "Your level of enjoyment will skyrocket as you find that you are able to play tennis with much greater consistency, control, concentration, and confidence!" Love it!

Get it on Amazon

OUTCOME VS PERFORMANCE COACHING

The one thing an athlete can control is their performance

By Larry Haugness

WIN!! WIN!! WIN!! Unfortunately, that’s how our culture feels about competition and that’s how a large majority of players, parents, and coaches feel.  The problem is that no one can control the outcome of winning.  The one thing an athlete can control is their performance.  Focusing on the outcome sabotages the ability to perform. Whereas concentrating on a performance goal allows a player to focus on their abilities and the process. When coaches and parents stress the winning or outcome, they create fear and a negative atmosphere in the player. That may be due to the fear of what their teammates, coaches, or parents may think if they lose.  Or it could be a fear of “I really don’t have what it takes to be a winner.” In some players, this promotes cheating to achieve someone else’s goal for them or get praise from a parent or coach. As players continue to lose, their self-worth continues on a downward spiral.

The key to becoming a successful tennis player is performance-based coaching as opposed to outcome-based coaching.  Performance-based coaching creates a positive atmosphere for players as it boosts confidence and promotes mental toughness.  For example, look at professional players. Listen to their interviews, both before and after their matches. Their focus is talking about performance issues rather than winning.  Their typical scenario is saying something like “if I play well, I have a chance to win.” After a match, they usually talk about their performance or their opponent’s performance.

How does someone learn how to change their thought processes?  For starters don’t let the main focus be on winning.  Focus on the process rather than the outcome.  One way to get on track is to have players use a one-to-ten scoring system of play with a one being the worst day ever and a ten being one of those three days in their life where the tennis ball looks as big as a basketball, and one can’t miss.  A level seven would be the typical day in day out level of a play.  Players need to identify their level seven. This then becomes the overarching goal.  The goal and success would be determined by playing at level seven in practice and matches.  Players will learn this is something they can control and associate it with their personal success.    

 

The discussion after practice and matches becomes what level did you play? If they don’t achieve their level seven goal discuss the reasons and issues involved and figure out ways how to solve them. Players will learn how to adjust their play to achieve level seven of play.  As players get comfortable with this process add specific goals that relate to what they are working on in workouts and practice sessions.  For example, if a player is working on getting their first serve in, a good goal would be to get 60% of their first serves in. Something they can control.  Accomplishing these performance goals determines their success.  Let the winning take care of itself.  As players continue to improve obviously their level seven will also improve.  This ladder of success continues to raise a player’s level and confidence.  This process puts the brain into being performance oriented.  Players start thinking about their performance rather than the outcome.   This takes the pressure off winning and emphasizes the process.  This positive process creates true confidence and consistency of play.  As a player’s confidence and play improve so will the fun factor.   Now we have a competitor!

Larry Haugness is a USPTA,  PTR pro, and long-time USTA volunteer. He is the only person to have been President of two USTA Sections and four Districts.  His accomplishments have been recognized by the USPTA, PTR, USTA, and TIA.  He has worked in just about every area of tennis. Larry has coached all skill levels from red ball to touring professionals.  His experience owning a club, running a foundation, working at a member-owned club, and running a public facility has given him the experience for his tennis articles and presentations.  He is President of Larry’s Racquet. 

TENNIS AMBASSADOR

Pasadena Tennis Association a worthy recipient of that generous package from BJK Eye Coach, Slinger, and HEAD Penn Racquet Sports.

Another delivery in the book for the series of 12 TENNIS AMBASSADOR shipments to deserving U.S. tennis nonprofits. This one couldn't have gone to a better candidate. Founded by Esther Hendershott in 1997, the Pasadena Tennis Association is a "family-friendly, affordable, and flexible" chapter of the USTA's NJTL program. (NJTL: National Junior Tennis & Learning)

The day I visited to hand over the donated equipment, Pasadena Tennis Association had about 35 kids on the courts at their Blair High School location.

From left:

Coach Pete Taratikhumporn, NJTL Director.

 

Esther Hendershott*, USTA SoCal Director of Community Tennis.

 

Coach UJ Neri, PTA Program Director.

* Esther's recipe for helping families that can't even afford the very low PTA rates for their kids: Ask parents from Pasadena private schools to adopt those kids. Works very well.

Coach Pete wrote us: "Pasadena Tennis (PTA) was formed in 1997 by Esther Hendershott and a group of individuals who saw a need for diverse and affordable tennis programs in the City of Pasadena.  Pasadena Tennis is a 501 (c) 3 organization. Pasadena is known for the Rose Parade, Rose Bowl, the foothills, beautiful homes, historic homes, bungalow haven, over 40 private schools (the most in the U.S.), and Stan Smith attended Pasadena High School. However, there is an underserved community we don't often hear about in Northwest Pasadena.  Pasadena Tennis focused its programs in the Northwest Pasadena area and Pasadena Unified School District, offering tennis at no cost to a low fee of $2.00 per class. Eventually, they expanded into the Parks and Recs and served the San Gabriel Valley with affordable and family-friendly programs.  PTA became an after-school program provider in 2001 for Pasadena Unified and provided after-school tennis in 12 PUSD schools. In 2010, PTA moved into middle schools and formed a middle school tennis league.  The team model continues today and has become a feeder into PUSD high school tennis. PTA was selected as an NJTL Chapter and provides academic support and resources for participants in their program.  Programs are focused primarily on youth, with Parent/Adult classes offered seasonally.  Tennis classes are offered for kids ages 3 - 17 years. Volunteer and summer job opportunities are available for high school students. Recently, PTA was successful in fundraising for court resurfacing.  Overall, Pasadena Tennis has served over 2,000 youth since 1997 and provides tennis to families of diverse backgrounds and socio-economics."

Pete and Rich with the recipient of the HEAD Boom junior racquet

Pete and Rich with the recipient of the HEAD Boom adult racquet

Parting shot with the TENNIS AMBASSADOR equipment package in the forefront. Billie Jean King Eye Coach (Thank you, Lenny!) Slinger Bag (Thank you, Mike!) HEAD Racquets and Penn balls (Thank you, Allison!)

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THE BAD

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SCATHING USTA DE&I REPORT

Report finds there is much to improve!

CONTEXT:  We've been saying it for years and now it's confirmed. The "good ol' boys network" needs help. We have gotten hold of a confidential survey report by a reputable firm which confirmed and cemented some of the real issues the organization has as has been posted in this newsletter for years now.

The document that mysteriously landed in my Inbox mid-November is titled USTA DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION. Executive Report on Audit Findings and Recommendations. The 40-page report was created by the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) to "conduct an in-depth analysis to help inform the development of a measurable and sustainable diversity and inclusion strategy." NLI is based in New York.

The company's website claims: "Using science to make organizations more human. Organizational performance can be improved and the brain can show us how. By following science, it is possible to develop significantly more effective talent strategies and drive behavior change across the globe, at a fraction of the usual cost — and in weeks, not years."

The first thing I usually do when I see an organization employed by the USTA, I go on Glassdoor and see what their own employees say about them. Here is what's posted at the top of their Glassdoor page. In red!

So, Glassdoor has evidence that someone has taken steps to inflate the ratings of NLI. Wow! I decided therefore to completely dismiss the positive reviews and focus instead on the negatives. Here are just a few of them:

"Beyond Toxic Leadership"

"The President is very controlling and causes internal chaos whenever she steps in."

"Avoid at all costs. The most toxic and incompetent leadership team."

"Poor Management. There is literally one person (the president) who holds all of the power and micromanages everything at the company. She's even the head of HR , micromanages the sales meetings and is in charge of accounting/finances (yikes) Literally zero integrity- no practice of anything they teach So much turn over- hardly anyone has stayed longer than a year and nobody seems to care."

"So sad- run if you value your dignity. Scary to think they are advising companies."

"Glassdoor alert banner above says it all. Unethical, toxic, power hungry President and absent “CEO”. I have never worked at such an amoral, corrupt organization. They do not practice what they preach. Their corrupt practices know no bounds."

"BEYOND TOXIC LEADERSHIP" AT NLI

How can you teach culture change to a client when your own culture is declared toxic?

At this point, I'm inclined to say that any report from this company needs to be taken with a grain of salt. How can you teach culture change to a client when your own culture is declared toxic?

 

If you need to inflate the reviews on Glassdoor, what else are you capable of doing? Maybe toning down the criticism to make the USTA look much better than they really are? It's possible. Maybe similar to those inflated TIA participation reports that are contracted each year?

 

I wonder how much the USTA paid for it...

Even if we consider that this report may not be kosher when it comes to the overall findings in regard to DE&I, I was amazed to see some verbiage in there that made me think this is a scathing report.

NLI was tasked with assessing the systems and practices that influence:
1. USTA Diverse Talent Management: The recruitment, development and retention of a
diverse workforce (including staff and volunteers at National and Section levels)
2. USTA Diverse Tennis Ecosystem: The recruitment, engagement and retention of diverse
tennis participants (including players, coaches, officials, and other stakeholders).

Between June and December of 2021 they conducted

  • Organizational Climate Survey of National and Section Staff (431 respondents)

  • 60 Executive interviews

  • Conducted 19 Focus Groups with 91 Participants

  • Analyzed and mapped internal and external dimensions of USTA operations using PHS Model

  • Reached out to two external organizations to benchmark against their DEI practices

The NLI assessments were guided by the following definitions:

  • Diversity is having a seat at the table

  • Equity is being treated fairly at the table

  • Inclusion is having a voice at the table

Findings (excerpts and my analyses)


NLI’s assessment found that while the Priorities of DEI are in place at the USTA, the organization’s Habits and Systems are not fully aligned in support of those priorities. (In other words: lots of hot air and empty words.)

​There is still a great deal of skepticism that the USTA will take the necessary steps to address the issues that exist internally within the organization. (The staff knows when there's a lot of hot air blown up their behinds.)

USTA staff and volunteers often display a fixed mindset and anchoring bias. For example, there is a tendency to default to “we've always done things this way.” (It's my way or the highway)

Some noted there is resistance to change and leadership being open to new ideas. (Just ask Mike Dowse, haha.)

The lowest-rated item on NLI’s DEI Climate Survey was career development, promotions, and “talent decisions are fair and equitable at USTA." Many staff reported that they felt decisions about development, promotions and compensation
were biased and based on relationships
and subjective criteria.
(Could it be they are talking about cronyism?)

Sections in particular reported feeling isolated and operating separate from National and each other. Both National and Sections said departments tend to operate in silos. (That's something the entire industry seems to be suffering from.)

Participant quote: “It’s too hard, you know–you’ve got a board and staff at District level, and you’ve got a board and staff at the Section level, and then above that a National Board and staff, and they are all connected by dotted lines, because we're all individual corporations.” (And too many of those board members are lawyers who don't even play tennis!)

The selection of board and committee positions is perceived to be unclear and based on politics and tenure rather than USTA’s strategic needs. (Yep. Just ask Javioer Palenque!)

Both National and Section staff felt appraisals were often subjective and biased from managers who knew less about  what the employee accomplished than co-workers or partners not consulted. (The low quality of section executives that are out there "looting their section" is well known thanks to our reporting.)

The employee experience varies at USTA, with most expressing love for the mission, and many feeling like it’s a siloed, good ol’ boys club steeped in tradition and where many non-White employees do not feel comfortable being their authentic selves. (How many times have we written about that good ol' boys club?)

Although USTA has a number of channels for employees to report issues anonymously, including the Whistleblower Hotline, the D&I department has had some staff report fears of speaking out and retaliation based on their experiences of reporting or calling out issues, or seeing how colleagues’ issues were handled. Many don’t feel comfortable asking seemingly innocuous questions (e.g., clarifying return to office policies) for fear of being labeled a “trouble-maker” or not a team-player. Some staff shared that even when they have reported issues with managers or peers, there was no action taken against the offender or the response was unsatisfactory, which discouraged them from speaking up in the future. (And I always thought it was only some of our advertisers that were threatened by USTA staff)

There is a perception among some staff that bonuses and salary increases are based on relationships, not merit. Some staff pointed out that “spot bonuses” are provided secretively and there’s no clear criteria for how they are determined. (Is that how Lew Sherr got a $230,000 pay increase during Covid, Mr. McNulty?)

Areas that are holding back diverse participation:
● Much of the sections’ diversity efforts seem to be largely focused on engaging NJTLs, but the scale is relatively small. A more intentional focus to reach a wider range of diverse groups and establish other outreach programs is needed to establish more successful pathways to further engagement.
(Yep!)
● DEI programs often lack scale and sustainability. Even successful initiatives are often one-off events that don’t allow for retention of participants. A few Sections have developed larger, sustained programs that engage players and then connect them to additional participation opportunities. (Yep!)
Junior tournament tennis is expensive; new rules for some tournaments benefit wealthier players who can travel to earn points.  (What else is new?)
● Some report that tournament play is hostile, and cheating is common. Highly competitive parents often make it hard for kids to have fun.  (What else is new?)

Tennis still struggles against the legacy of being known as a “white, elitist” sport, and the biggest barrier to that beginning to change is the lack of diverse representation within the USTA itself, particularly among senior roles. (Older white men run tennis in the world. The good ol' boys network is alive and well.)

And last but not least, how's this for an amazing statement from a section employee:

“One of my coworkers recently resigned because they felt alienated because of their political beliefs. In our office, an assumption is made that all staff members fall to the far left on the political spectrum. I feel that political beliefs are private and should not be a topic of discussion at staff meetings; especially when leadership makes the disparaging comments. Shaming a person, much less a coworker, for their political identification is intolerable and only proves to alienate the individual and ensure they will become closed off and uncommunicative. I think if USTA can remove politics from their culture and consequently eliminate defensiveness, it would bring more value to DEI's mission.”

(Sounds like what's going on at our schools and colleges for decades already. No real surprise here. Holier than Thou is apparently the way of life at some of the USTA offices.)

Your honor, I rest my case.

TROUBLE IN SOCAL TENNIS PARADISE

Some Southern California League Coordinators are under attack

CONTEXT:  As a friend and fan of the USTA Adult League program (see my article on tennisplayer.net) who was intimately involved from 2006 until 2010, it pains me to write about problems with local and section league coordinators. But I repeat what I've been saying when investigating issues with staff and executives in some USTA sections in the past (like Pacific Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern California): If we don't report it, things will never change. If you read the letter I've received from the USTA SoCal President Bob Hochstadter, you know what I mean. I like and respect Bob and posted it under LETTERS to the EDITOR this month.

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Calling the Coordinator in question will never be helpful since he/she will deny everything. Contacting the section will also not get you anywhere since they think they are holier than thou and generally start the denial and repercussion routine. A Coordinator whom the CEO and Board think is the best thing since sliced bread may be extremely revengeful and start to harass a complainer behind their back. I've seen it in 2006 and I'm hearing it today. So, don't tell me everything is hunky dory in your section when it isn't!

 

To illustrate my point: A captain wrote the following: "Players with a rating well below their true talent, lying about it during a USTA match, then files a grievance against the player who questioned the rating. USTA then lodges a formal stand against the player who questions the rating as "unsportsmanlike conduct". The player who lies about their rating and wins the match gets no reprimand." Know what I mean? Yes, the SoCal section may have added 3,000 new league players, I don't question that number. But how many thousands of frustrated USTA league players have left the program in sunny Southern California and are now happy pickleball players?

I started my investigation after a prominent SoCal tennis player told me, "It’s a shame the staff working for SCTA don’t care to provide good service or grow tennis.  Passive and impolite - the team is bad for the sport." Not good, Bob! And people like this are usually not listened to. They are just being dismissed as a nuisance and that label stays with them and controls all future communication with that person. I've seen it decades ago and it appears to still be going on today.

In our January 2023 issue, we'll bring you two league captains' detailed accounts of how they've been treated by some section staff. This month we only want to list some of the main issues and post a few comments we gained from a quick survey of just a few hundred SoCal league players. To be fair, that survey had about 15% of respondents praise the USTA in Southern California and declared they are happy with adult leagues.

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REPORTED ISSUES WITH ADULT LEAGUES

The issues listed are not new. Most have them have been reported by players and captains for decades. I sometimes question the USTA's sheer willingness to resolve them and want to invite our readers to comment and come up with possible solutions.

Most serious issues

  • Bad Self-rates

  • Players tanking matches

  • Sandbaggers

  • Bad Line calls

  • Harassment by league coordinators

  • Coordinators not reacting to complaints

  • Non-enforcement of the league's own rules

  • Too many self-rated players (ringers) allowed
    on a team

86% of SoCal league players reported they have in the past experienced a cheating league captain.

"Section staff and local league coordinators do not care about cheaters because without them it's hard to win at National Championships. There are teams that consistently cheat but nothing is done to them."

A few comments from SoCal league players

  • Players tanking matches on purpose to keep rating low; registration opened ALL season or is reopened to register players to join teams last minute. Some sections have deadlines and it should be consistent all across.

  • Self-rates, name changes, and false scores or replacing a player in score line.

  • Currently there is a new team (Volley Girls) in the SFV 3.5 weekend league that has 6 self-rated 3.5’s that are all actually 4.0’s. High 4.0’s. They win each match in straight sets barely giving up a game. Several teams have complained to Kenji and India questioning the fairness of this and they said they would look at it. The scores say it all and nothing has been done. It is unethical and unfair when all the other teams competing have confirmed 3.5’s who have worked hard all year long to improve their games only to get obliterated by playing 4.0’s in a 3.5 league.

  • Harassment. Bad Coordinators. Line calls.

  • I would like to say that Usta Adult Leagues System is very good.

  • One team in the SoCal San Fernando Valley and some of the same on a team in the San Gabriel's 4.0 men's division continues to fill their team with self-rated ringers who are clearly underrated. While the USTA sees this as recruiting and bringing new players and money to USTA, it is clearly not the intention. 6-7 Self Rated players on the team, season after season, year after year, and the same two self-rated teams continue to win the league and go to post-season play just about every season is an obvious intentional advantage. It has created a un-level playing field that discourages the majority. Happy to play computer-rated win or lose but this team is "tricking the deal." A possible solution would be to limit the amount of Self-Rated Players per team to say 1-2.

  • Ranking deception/sandbaggers. Scheduling manipulation (postponing matches when captains don’t like their lineup even when they could fill the lines). Effing hate both of those things!

  • The USTA office does a fine job scheduling leagues, etc but apparently does not handle changes or grievances very well.

  • Los Angeles Coordinators are terrible. They bend the rules for their friends and themselves.

  • When a captain got caught cheating (she had 2 teams in a same league and she faked a match against her team A and team B). The local league coordinator told me that he is on her side. I was shocked to hear that he would support a cheating captain but then she was captaining 8 teams in one season when most of us only captain one team per season. She was eventually sanctioned and had to find a captain to take over all her 8 teams. When that happened there were matches with no-shows and constant rescheduling of matches claiming that no courts were available yet I was there to witness most of the courts empty. When I started to talk to other captains, realized that this has been going on for sometime with this sanctioned captains team. The local league coordinator always back her up for rescheduling matches out of grace period. When the coordinator found out that all the captains started to talk then he threatened to sue me for defamation of character. Even though me and other captains pointed out all the things he was doing that was wrong. SCTA did not do anything to change that. That cheater captain's team keeps on cheating and last time I had a match against them their tactics to "win at all cost" got my blood pressure so high that I almost had to forfeit the match. After that I stopped playing USTA and never will again!

  • I emailed the league coordinator multiple times to try and find a team to join. They were very unhelpful and non-responsive.

  • A Local League Coordinator captaining a team or playing on a team is a huge conflict of interest!!!!!!!!!!! That local league coordinator added 2 players for the last match of the season because they can. Everyone wants to play for the coordinator because they have access to building a stronger team. For example, if a person who played in college relocates from another part of the country relocates to the area and contacts the coordinator for recommendation of a team then the coordinator will add them to their team.

  • I have seen a conflict of interest over the years in LA. I have complained and discussed this for years. There is definitely one LA league coordinator who has a reputation of recruiting self-rated sandbaggers from outside LA to join her team.

  • Good customer service is non existent. The rules are written so vaguely that they can be interpreted any way they want.

  • It’s hit or miss. Usually have a great experience with staff at sectionals and good support in some grievance issue but not all. In Ventura and SFV currently the coordinators are responsive friendly and fair. Maria Goldberg and Madeleine Segura, very helpful and almost always responsive. One grievance was reversed due to the committee’s lack of responsiveness by their own deadlines- but the gist of the grievance was upheld which was disqualifying a sandbagger. But their team still went to playoffs unpunished because they did not rule in a timely manner.

  • I think the section league administrators are completely unavailable to any members of Usta #, and not responsive to the captains who need assistance.

THE POPULARITY OF PICKLEBALL CAN BE COUNTERED IF WE CHANGE A FEW THINGS

The turnaround won't be easy but can be done

CONTEXT: Pickleball is hyped by all parties involved in making money with the sport. For the last few months, I have warned against buying too much into that hype because I think it's basically a sideshow to the main event: tennis. To find ways to explain the popularity of pickleball, we have to look at the realities and ask the right questions. My observations over the last 12 months resulted in the following (non-scientific) findings.

There are several drivers behind the popularity of pickleball. I’ll list them in no particular order.

 

  • It’s everything players dislike about tennis (the high entry cost, the running, the skills required, the steep learning curve, the cliquishness, the “unwelcoming to beginners”). While all these reasons used to mainly apply to senior tennis players, they increasingly appeal to younger people, college tennis players (easy money on the pickleball pro tours), high schoolers, and entire families that can easily play together.
    Things we need to work on: Make tennis more affordable for everyone. Embrace beginners and make them feel welcome. Focus on high school tennis.

     

  • It’s everything players dislike about league tennis (the cheating, the sandbagging, the cost, “professional Captains”). While league tennis was growing during the recovery months of the pandemic, a large portion of players also left the program for those reasons and did not retire from sports. Most went to play pickleball. History tells us that pickleball will start adult leagues, as well, and the cheaters and sandbaggers will begin to disrupt the current kumbaya environment pretty quickly.
    Things we need to work on: Be serious about eradicating cheating and sandbagging in league tennis. Don't just always talk about it. Do it!

     

  • It’s everything players dislike about the USTA (the self-righteousness, the top-down, “holier than thou” attitude, bad customer service, league coordinators who favor the teams they are captaining, refusing to have enough umpires and officials present at junior tournaments, making junior tennis too expensive for minority parents so rich white kids are perceived to have an advantage, the money-grabbing attitude, and the obscene executive pay packages). It's unlikely that the governing body of pickleball will behave any differently once the money comes rolling in.
    Things we need to work on: Change the entire culture of the USTA. Fire the national Board and most of the executives. Oy!

I wonder also if the tennis industry feels a little intimidated by pickleball. The dedicated PB industry is making money with equipment but I'm beginning to doubt that the big players like Wilson, HEAD, or Babolat are. Tournament Directors are making money. Some teaching pros do. One challenge our industry has: Does the USTA not want to make a stand for tennis because it would mean against PB? Some little birdie tells me they want to put their hands into the PB cookie jar and are actively planning something they dare not tell us right now.

TIA NATIONAL PARTICIPATION REPORT TOO EXPENSIVE

High cost of tennis doesn't stop at junior tournaments

CONTEXT:  Every year the Tennis Industry Association (TIA) procures the National Participation Report from Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS). And every year, we are complaining about the cost of it. The 2022 report is being offered for $1,500.

I always describe the data in the report as bogus because I don't believe the methodology behind it is adequate. But that's another story. This year, they obscured the questionable data and the high price by telling us there are more organizations involved in creating the report. The latest 'Tennis Industry United newsletter stated, "This year’s report, for the first time, blends data from the Physical Activity Council (PAC) Study, administered by Sports Marketing Surveys, and the National Golf Foundation Participation Engagement Study (PES)."

While I hope that more and different data may improve the quality of the report, I still ask why it has to be so expensive. Those $1,500 bust the marketing budget of many of the smaller businesses in tennis. Shouldn't the TIA make the report available for free? Is there more behind it to make it unaffordable for half of the industry participants?

I wonder if Jeff Williams would do us the honor of explaining this to our readers.

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Norway’s hands-off approach to youth sports might explain why they’re so good when they get older

The fun-based Norwegian system is the antithesis of the $19 billion American youth sports machine. Youth sports in the United States: Your kid tries out for an under-8 soccer team, you fork out $2,000 per year... Read the article here.

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Women athletes now have their own sports network

Finding women’s sports is about to get easier. The first-ever network to focus on female athletes, the Women’s Sports Network, launched Wednesday, offering 24/7 streaming of original programming, competitions, documentaries and a daily studio show “Game On.” Read the article here.

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GSE Worldwide signs Jessica Pegula

GSE Worldwide has signed Jessica Pegula, World No. 3 and top-ranked American tennis player and daughter of Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, for representation. GSE Worldwide tennis agent Chris McCormack, the grandson of the late IMG founder Mark... Read the article here.

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Naomi Osaka sued 

Naomi Osaka is being sued by crypto investors as a promoter of the once highly reputable FTX cryptocurrency exchange that has now suffered an absolute collapse. In March this year, the four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka ...
Read the article here.

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THE UGLY

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WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE USPTA?

Has the once-so-revered organization lost its mojo?

 

CONTEXT: What's going on with the USPTA? No more seeking USTA accreditation?

(The USTA seemingly haven't gotten that message since their web pages haven't changed at all.) Parting ways with 7-year partner Wilson Sporting Goods? What triggered that exodus? Can the USPTA afford Wilson to give them the cold shoulder? Testing more Pickleball pros than Tennis pros? Celebrating a pro who earns 800 CE Credits in one year? How is that possible? We'll analyze and express some major concerns. Thank you to all those long-time USPTA pros that helped us paint the picture. As pomised, we won't mention any names. You all know why. 

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ACCREDITATION

The announcement this summer came unexpectedly for everyone. One USPTA member saw it this way, "I think Embree made the USPTA look foolish with his social media campaign last summer to challenge the USTA.  He is the person who pushed to move from Houston to be close to USTA." 

At the same time, we're hearing that PTR has re-joined the USTA accreditation process. They also have an agreement with the WTA for education and certification. Add to that their connecting with some USTA sections for cooperation and you can see where this is headed. The more the USPTA moves away from the USTA, the closer the PTR gets to our NGB. Btw, I think it makes sense that an organization that doesn't have divisions (PTR) aligns itself with an organization that does (USTA) for cooperation and common goals.

What's going on? Dan Santorum collaborating with sections and making partnership agreements must really be a thorn in Embree’s side. Then I saw the USTA SoCal's invitation to Level 1 Coaching workshops and the verbiage they used about accredited certification organizations. I wondered if that means they are not recommending the USPTA anymore.

My respective email to the USTA's Steve Keller went out on November 17 and I'm still waiting for an answer. I always regarded him as a standup guy but maybe someone reminded him about Kamperman's memo from 2018: "Ignore the noise!" (It appears the DE&I report mentioned earlier was right that nobody at the USTA knows what's going on anymore. Are people afraid to speak out?)

Dan Santorum collaborating with sections and making partnership agreements must really be a thorn in Embree’s side.

USPTA Member

One USPTA member put it this way, "2022 was a year of tennis associations stepping beyond their role - COVID-19 restrictions, banning Russians and leaning on China. At a lower level, USPTA got their panties in a wad over the way they were treated regarding certification.  The USPTA deserved to be reprimanded because they have not done anything to advance the certification process since Embree took over.  At the same time, the USTA should have minded their own business."

WILSON

The USPTA announcement about Wilson discontinuing the relationship was almost a rewrite of the Wilson press release. I was told this was not the first time this happened. "Embree dumped Penn as the ball sponsor, after having an incredibly long and successful relationship.  This is karma."

Another USPTA Pro remembered, "In the past, the USPTA put Prince on the map with its agreement. Prince used the USPTA to get on the map then it dumped them and kept only select members on board.  Shortly after, Wilson did the same thing, then they dumped the USPTA. I cannot understand why a business would want to align with the USPTA."

So who is going to sign a contract with the USPTA for balls and racquets? Some inner voice tells me HEAD may not be too interested in jumping in bed with them. They may have to look at Tecnifibre which could be a viable option for them.

The USPTA is "too money hungry" as a former member pointed out. I'm also hearing about a company that was offering to donate product to USPTA pros for free but was quite disappointed when the USPTA wanted $20,000 for that privilege.

And another member compares the USPTA with the USTA: "If just hanging around, or taking part in the process of the USTA, you will eventually graduate into a position of authority which in itself defines the USTA.  Add to that, not having a real job or responsibilities, and bingo, you have the recipe for a dysfunctional operation.  The USPTA has followed that game plan…that’s why they are where they are."

I cannot understand why a business would want to align with the USPTA.

USPTA Member

CONTINUING EDUCATION POINTS

A USPTA member had sent us an article recognizing USPTA Professional and a 30-plus year member Michael Friedman for the number of continuing education points he obtained in 2020. That number was 847. "Several years ago he got over 200, the next year he got over 800 and this past year they just said he won."

The reader sending us the information is questioning those numbers and criticising the CE program. "There are 52X40 or 2080 work hours in a year. If someone gets 800+ CE credits a year (1 credit = 1 hour) then they have spent the equivalent of 20 weeks in CE courses. (20X40) = 800. I'm not doubting Friedman's integrity, but when does he have time to work if he spends the equivalent of 20 of 52 weeks in CE courses? Another way to think about it is that every pro needs 5 hours a year.  Friedman got enough points (800+) to support 160 pros (20x8)."

Would it be fair to assume that 20% of the members get 80% of the points? The reader concludes, "I am not being critical of the members who have followed the guidelines and rules. However, I am wondering if the program is accomplishing what it should accomplish?"

My takeaway from the aforementioned issues: It is apparent that a good number of USPTA members are not happy with the way the organization is run. I know that a bunch of really good professionals are serving on the current USPTA Board. They are faced with an organization that may have lost its mojo and needs to be reorganized in my opinion. So it can go back to its once so dominant glory. Thousands of members deserve that and I have no doubt they would support such a reorganization.

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THE WEIRD

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TENNIS MAGAZINE ENDS PRINTED ISSUE

Has Sinclair lost faith in tennis?

CONTEXT: It was announced in the October 21 issue of tennis.com: "As TENNIS Magazine’s six-decade print run comes to an end, we invite you to join us at TENNIS.com." That was big news. Owner Sinclair Broadcast Group which had also bought The Tennis Channel a year earlier had decided to stop the presses and retire one of the most iconic magazines in tennis history.

When Sinclair bought the magazine in 2017, they probably had big plans with it but only two years later had to make some cost-cutting moves and design changes. The biggest change was the reduction in print quality to something much inferior to its previous look. The loss of quality was cleverly disguised as "upgraded fonts and logos as part of a plan to more closely integrate the print product with the television network’s brand."

Since most of their issues were bought by the USTA for a long time, they had to "toe the line" which opened them up for criticism. However, I always respected the quality of reporting by writers like Steven Tignor who also wrote that great Parting Shot announcing the end of the magazine and reminiscing about the past 25 years since he started to work there. Or how about Peter Bodo's excellent writing? Just look at his article "Has tennis lost Naomi Osaka?" in the November 11 online issue?

My takeaway: Has Sinclair lost faith in tennis? The magazine was apparently not profitable anymore or didn't produce enough profits. Is that a sign that more steps toward divesting the company of tennis assets can be expected? How about the persistent rumor that The Tennis Channel is on the chopping block? Sinclair reportedly paid $350M for the channel and $8M for magazine and website. The channel is supposed to have 61M subscribers and its revenue of only $62M is probably much less than Sinclair needs to get some kind of return on their investment beyond the initial write-off of $200M of Tennis Channel's accumulated operating losses since startup. I would not be surprised if all their tennis assets will be sold to the highest bidder by the end of 2023.

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