The New Kid

ALTA-150x100

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been the New Kid on a tennis team.

For those of you who don’t live in the Atlanta area, you may not be familiar with ALTA, the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association, the largest tennis league in the country.  For those of you who do live here (or have lived here in recent years), you understand the importance of ALTA and how your team may or may not define you as a player (yes, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but . . .).

Anyway, this season, I have decided to try my hand on a new team.  For the past several years, I’ve played on the ladies A team in my neighborhood.  We have a great group of players, and it’s really the one social thing I do with my neighbors.  I’ve made several close friends as a result – the team is competitive but not overly so, so the matches are fun and the atmosphere is light.  All very good things.

A few seasons ago, though, I was asked to join a different team, one that plays out of the club where my son trains.  I politely declined, wanting, instead, to stick with my neighbors.  Each season, I would get asked again, and, each time, I declined.  This season, I decided to give it a try.

Today is my first match with my new team.  I’ve only attended one group lesson with them, so I’m not really familiar with their styles of play nor they with mine.  Today I’m playing with a partner I haven’t met yet (ALTA is all doubles at the adult level).  To add to my stress, I just had my racquet restrung yesterday with a new type of string, and I haven’t had a chance to hit with it yet.  Okay, so it could get a bit rough out there this morning . . .

I’m trying to stay focused on the positive, just like David Benzel talked about on my radio show this week.  I’m telling myself that it’s good for me to step outside my comfort zone.  I’m telling myself that it’s good for me to get to know some of the other women where my son trains.  I’m telling myself that it’s good for me to be a little nervous, that it will keep me on my toes.  I’m telling myself that it’s good for me to experience a little of what my son experienced when he moved to the club a year and a half ago.  I’m telling myself that, every now and then, it’s good to be the New Kid.

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Miami Meeting Update

This just in from Bill Mountford:

The JC&S Committee had the first of two scheduled meetings earlier today and then an open forum in the afternoon. There will be another meeting tomorrow morning. The USTA will issue a release after the annual meeting concludes on Monday.

I’m Back . . .

I’m not sure anyone even noticed, but I’ve been out of town all week on a Girls Trip with my daughters.  My middle daughter and I were visiting her big sister in Los Angeles.  Yes, the Indian Wells tournament was in full swing.  No, we did not attend.  Sometimes hiking and shopping and Disneyland trump tennis.  Sometimes.

Anyway, I have been following all the comments posted on my article about our options regarding the 2014 calendar.  Wow!  A lot of emotion coming through.  Obviously, I have many passionate readers here who fall on both sides of the 2014 changes.  That’s a good thing.  And unexpected.  At least, I don’t think USTA had any inkling that all this passion would emerge a year ago when it announced the changes.

There’s another big meeting this weekend down in Florida.  I have no idea how all of this is going to shake out.  I just hope, whatever happens, that junior tennis in the US continues to grow and to thrive.  I think – despite our differences of opinion on just how that should look – that’s what everyone hopes.

2014: What Are Our Options?

There seems to be some (a lot!) confusion about USTA’s governance procedure as it relates to the 2014 changes.  After reading through the USTA by-laws in their entirety, I can tell you that I’m not any closer to understanding the intricacies of how this terribly complicated organization operates.  I have asked some people who have been involved with USTA for way longer than I have to please explain to me what our options are moving forward.  Here’s what they have told me.

At next week’s meeting (see my email exchange with Lew Brewer for more info), the Sections will discuss then vote on whether to approve the Proposed Changes to the already-approved 2014 Junior Competition Calendar.

  1. If approved, the Board will vote on the Proposed Changes at its April meeting.  If approved by the Board at that meeting, the Proposed Changes will go into effect January 1, 2014.
  2. If not approved, the original 2014 Junior Competition Calendar will go into effect January 1, 2014.

However, a third possible scenario – one that has not been mentioned by the Commenters on my previous posts – is that the Sections can combine efforts to garner at least 30% of the vote and can propose a “call item” to ask for a pause on the 2014 changes.  This “call item” would then go to a Board vote, I’m assuming at the April meeting.  If approved, we could see the Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee go back to work to develop a world class junior competition schedule with a competitive structure that:

  • Is fair to all the sections
  • Allows for a logical progression from sectional to national to super-national play
  • Results in the best players competing against the best players in the country
  • Is accessible, easy to understand, and cost-effective
  • Provides choices to families and parents in allowing them to build a tennis schedule that suits their individual needs
  • Most importantly, promotes true earned advancement

I have spoken to someone in my section’s (Southern) leadership and am hopeful that they will work with some of the other sections to harness enough support for a “call item” to be proposed.  If you are in favor of a pause, I urge you to speak with your section leadership as well to gauge their stance.  Each section should vote in such a way that benefits its own junior players – that’s why these sections exist, after all.  However, I suspect there is some political pressure from the National office for the sections to support the stance of the President and Board, so it’s important that we constituents put some pressure on our representatives to support what’s in the best interest of our kids.

Quota Comparison Between 2012 & 2014

The link below is to an Excel spreadsheet comparing Boys 18 entries by section between the actual 2012 Winter Nationals tournament and what the numbers will look like if the proposed 2014 changes are approved.  The numbers for SoCal and NorCal may be off by one or two as there was some confusion as to which of the two sections certain players were from.  Please take some time to read and understand the differences and feel free to comment below.

2012 Winter National Boys 18 Compared to Proposed New Quotas

Amended 2014 Changes – Just A Proposal At This Point

Please refer to my post from earlier today to understand how the process will work going forward.  In the meantime, here’s the 28-page document outlining the changes to the 2014 Junior Competition Schedule as well as the shorter 5-page summary version along with the new proposed national schedule.  I haven’t taken the time yet to analyze it fully but I plan to do so over the next couple of days.  If any of you would like to offer your opinion, the Comments box below is open!

Changes to 2014 Jr Comp Structure

Summary of 2014 National Jr Comp Structure

2014 Proposed National Schedule By Month

March 6th Official Statement from USTA

Today is March 6th, the day USTA said we would hear something from the work done by the Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee last week in Dallas.  I emailed Lew Brewer this morning for an update.  The following is my email to him along with his reply.  I hope it lends clarity about the process. . .

Lisa to Lew:

“Good morning, Lew! From previous communications, it seems like today’s the day for USTA to reveal publicly the changes made to the 2014 schedule during last week’s JCSC meeting. If that’s the case, can you please include me on any releases sent out? Thank you.”

Lew to Lisa:

“Thanks for the email.  Yes, today is the day of days.

I’m sorry that I could not tell you more earlier but we really had to inform our USTA leadership about the proposed changes before we released it to the public.  There are two versions of the changes.  There is a 28-page version which is very detailed and a 6-page version which is more of a layperson’s description.  I assume you will want both.

We want people to know about the proposed changes and the Sections will weigh-in on them at the USTA Annual Meeting.  It is important to note that the proposed changes were approved unanimously by the new Committee.

The process moving forward will be as follows:

We’ll release the information to everyone today.

  • The Sections will discuss within their Junior Competition structure between now and the USTA Annual Meeting (March 16-18, 2013).  All the Sections have been informed that this information is coming so they should be ready to discuss it internally.
  • The USTA Leadership (Section Presidents, Section Delegates, Section Executive Directors) will discuss this on March 16, 2013.  These are the key voting groups in the USTA (except the Section Executive Directors).
  • We will have an open forum for all the attendees during the meeting and the Executive Committee will take a straw vote during the Annual Meeting.  Technically it is not an official vote because of some technical governance issues but we have asked the Sections to treat this as if it were an official vote.
  • Assuming the Sections give it their approval, the USTA Board will vote on the plan at its next meeting in April.
  • In mid-April we will notify folks of the result and announce that bids are open for those who would like to host a 2014 event.
  • I’m confident that the revised plan will be approved.  I expect that people on both sides of the issue will not be completely happy, but the new plan reflects what we heard on our listening tours and through other means while remaining consistent with the principles of the currently approved plan.

The information will be released in the afternoon and I’ll send it to you as soon as it is available.  I’m sure you will get it from someone else before I send it to you.

Thanks.”

As I interpret Lew’s email, the Sections still have to approve the proposal before it goes to a full Board vote in April.  Therefore, it is crucial that we all continue to communicate with our Section Leadership (click here for the list of 2013 Section Presidents with email addresses) and voice our opinions on the changes once we see what comes out later today.  We’ve all worked so diligently on behalf of our junior players – let’s stick with it and see this thing through!

Where Do My Tournament Fees Actually Go?

flying-dollar-bills

A question was recently posted on Twitter that caught my attention: Approximately what percentage of the entry fee goes to the host site in USTA junior tournaments?  It’s a question I’ve been pondering for quite some time, especially since all this talk started about cutting draws at tournaments and the impact that would have on Tournament Directors and local communities.  So, I contacted my local and sectional USTA junior tennis staff members as well as some tournament directors who run local, sectional, and national events and asked them to answer a few questions for me.  Here’s what I found out . . .

1. For sanctioned tournaments, how much does the tournament director pay to USTA for sanctioning fees?  Do those same fees apply to non-sanctioned events?

These fees vary by section and by district.  In order to host a Georgia-sanctioned tournament, there is a $35.00 sanctioning fee per event plus a head tax of $.50 per player.  For National Level 1 events, the fee is $100 per age group.  For National Level 2 and Level 3 events, the fee is $100 per tournament.  For Southern Sectional events, the fee is $35 (plus Active fees).

For a non-sanctioned tournament in Georgia, the fee is $100 per age group plus the head tax which varies based on the level of tournament.

2.  Who pays for officials?  Is it the Tournament Director?  If so, is there a set daily fee?

The tournament pays for everything, though at some of the bigger events, USTA may contribute toward the costs of running the tournament.  And USTA mandates the required number of officials based on the level of the tournament.  Every community is different with regard to umpire fees.  Some do a flat rate, some a per hour rate, some a mixture of both.   The rates vary as well, anywhere from $12/hour on up.  Tournaments are also responsible for hotel rooms and travel expenses, and sometimes meals for the officials, again depending on locale.  Nothing is standard. There are no volunteer officials.  They are all paid.  It is important to note that the Tournament Director may not also be the Tournament Referee.

3.  Who pays for tournament gifts (t-shirts, towels, water bottles, etc)?

The tournament pays for everything.

4.  Who pays for trophies or other awards?

Typically, the tournament pays for everything.  However, at certain larger events, like our own Southern Closed, USTA may provide the awards and player gifts.

5.  Who pays for court fees?  Balls?

The tournament pays for everything.  Court costs are dependent on location.  What’s interesting to note here is that, while the cost of balls has gone up in recent years, sanctioning fees and tournament entry fees have basically stayed stagnant, cutting into the profit margin.

6.  Does the tournament director have a say over how many days an event can last?  Does he/she have a say over draw size?  Does he/she have a say over whether the tourney includes both singles and doubles?

Most events fall into categories or levels and those levels or categories determine pretty much everything from draw size to length of play.

State, Sectional, and National events have specific regulations for specific events, so it’s pretty much cookie-cutter.  All events of the same designations (e.g. a National Open, or Southern Bullfrog, or GA Level 3) should all be the same, unless the individual sanctioning authority makes an exception.

In Georgia, Level 4 events have some choices since there has to be room for “regular” tournaments.  It’s up to the tournament to determine which age group events they want to hold, if they have doubles or not, the court surface, whether or not to provide certain amenities, etc.

The sanction period is still determined by USTA Georgia.  The length of the tournament, the number of events, and the courts available are all considerations in setting the draw size.   The USTA Georgia Sanction and Schedule Committee has to approve the details, including draw size.

In recent years, USTA Georgia has been disincentivizing tournament directors from offering doubles by charging an additional head tax on each doubles team plus mandating that trophies are provided for first and second place finishers in each age group, thereby increasing expenses and reducing net profit for the tournament directors.  The additional tournament fee of $3.00 for doubles goes directly to TennisLink as opposed to the tournament itself.

7.  Is there an additional fee for having a tourney listed on TennisLink?

No.  That’s part of being a USTA sanctioned event.  (I’m not sure about Unsanctioned events, but I  assume the only reason to have one listed is to take advantage of the entry system.)

8.  Does the $3.00 TennisLink fee go to USTA or TennisLink or the tourney director or someone else?

TennisLink is administered by Active.com under contract with USTA.  The fee is retained by Active.com for their services and is therefore non-refundable.

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USTA sets minimum and maximum tournament fees that can be charged.  It also specifies how many trophies are to be awarded in each age group.  In order to host a tournament, the tournament director must be part of a USTA member club or organization.

If there’s a day or two of bad weather, that can drastically cut into the tournament’s profit.  Officials are expected to stay on duty during rain delays, increasing the overall expense in that column of the balance sheet.  If bad weather persists, sometimes the director decides to move the matches indoors, increasing court costs for the event, too.

Some tournament directors rely on volunteers to staff the tournament desk and to perform other duties over the course of the event.  Others, though, prefer to hire paid staff, again increasing expenses and decreasing their profitability.

The key, it seems, to running a profitable tournament is finding some sort of sponsor to help offset the costs outlined above.  We recently went to a Southern Level 3 tournament in South Carolina sponsored by Dunlop.  Not only were the players treated to a really nice long-sleeved tournament t-shirt, but they were also each given a reel (not just a packet!) of string.  In addition, the tournament provided complimentary lunch for the players at each tournament site both days of the event.

I was hoping to be able to give you a hard-numbers breakdown, but there are so many variables in terms of related expenses that it’s really impossible to do that.  The bottom line is that very little money goes to USTA from junior tournaments.  The vast majority of the revenue goes directly into the tournament’s bank account with all related expenses coming out of that same account.  While some of the larger national events turn a sizable profit for the tournament director, most local and sectional tournaments wind up being a very small source of income for those running them.  Some directors have figured out ways to reduce costs, such as ordering t-shirts in bulk for the entire year and doing the same with trophies.  While a great cost-cutting measure, having the same shirt or same trophy at every tournament can eliminate the unique personality that many tournaments (like the old Bowls) try to develop.  Ultimately, though, a tournament’s success is gauged NOT by its profit or loss but rather by the satisfaction of the players and their families and their willingness to return year after year.

Official Statement from USTA

I just received the following via email from Lew Brewer:

The Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee of the USTA had a positive and productive meeting in Dallas from February 26 to February 28 regarding the 2014 National Junior Competitive Structure.
 
During this meeting the committee reviewed feedback received at the Listening Sessions and the Letusknow.com e-mail address. This included comments from key stakeholders including parents, coaches and players, tournament directors, teaching professionals, college coaches, USTA sections and other tennis constituents.
 
The proposed changes developed during this meeting were unanimously approved by the committee and will be presented to USTA National and Section Leadership on or about March 6, 2013.
 
These proposed changes will be vetted by USTA Leadership at the USTA Annual Meeting, March 16-18, 2013, and then presented to the USTA Board shortly thereafter.

The statement can be found online at http://www.usta.com/Youth-Tennis/Junior-Competition/usta_junior_competition_and_sportsmanship_committee_update/

I have some very strong thoughts on this statement, but I will keep them to myself for now.  In the meantime, please know that I have emailed Lew to ask him for more information on exactly what the proposed changes entail.  Stay tuned . . .