Zoo Tennis/Wayne Bryan on 10 and Under Tennis

So now that the “Zoo Tennis” blog has responded to Wayne Bryan’s letter – Wayne Bryan has respoded to the Zoo Tennis response.  This article will go over the Zoo Tennis response to the Quick Start part of Wayne Bryan’s letter and Wayne’s response to Zoo Tennis.  I will also add some of my own input to this discussion.

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ZOO: Beginning where he begins, with 10-and-under tennis, I can’t say I disagree with his objection to the unilateral, top-down, this-is-the-way-it-will-be approach. One solution I heard that I think would have been more palatable would be one, just one, national 10-and-under tournament with full court and regular balls, with the remainder the new format.

BRYAN: That makes no sense at all to me or the many, many coaches and parents and kids that are sickened by the removal of regular tennis for U10s.

ZOO: No one is advocating having kids wait until they are 8 or 10 before they pick up a racquet, although there is almost universal agreement that other sports should be part of a child’s recreation options until they are at least 12, a balance he, more than anyone, would be expected to advocate

BRYAN: Read my book to understand my position on Primary Passion and Secondary Passion. And I say kick the soccer ball, hit the baseball, shoot the basketball, swim in the pool – – – but get after the great game of tennis with all your heart and soul. That is me. That is lots of other coaches and parents. That may not be you, that may not be others. But those that do and who are out there on the courts playing for fun and with passion at age 5 and 6 want to compete with other kids that are doing the same and they want to be hitting regular tennis balls at 8, 9 and 10 and maybe even 6 and 7. Don’t drop a Mandate bomb on these kids and say they can no longer play with a regular tennis ball until they are 11 and 12 years old. Dual approach. Have all the colored soft ball tournaments you want in U6, U 8 and U10, just don’t eliminate regular tennis for 10s. Create, don’t eliminate! Why has U10 tennis dropped off dramatically this year? Duh. The green ball mandate!! Unintended consequence. Ill conceived. No empirical data. No getting out on the tennis trails and listening to top coaches, parents and juniors.

ADIRONDACK: The problem I see with the Bryan Approach is that people in our business resist change (my opinion).  It took years from the time he started advocating the games based approach to teaching to the time it became well accepted.  While mandating that every 10 and Under tournament use Red, Orange or Green (ROG) balls is extreme, waiting for the industry to adopt is not a good alternative.  There should be some incentives for people to try something new before you let the market decide.  I am not convinced that mandating ROG for every 10 and under tournament should be one of those incentives.  Once enough outlets are established I do believe we should see what people choose and study the successes and failures of players using each approach (traditional balls and ROG).

ZOO: I’m no fan of committees, or even chain-of-command, which is why owning and operating my own website is a perfect second career for me. Craig Tiley, now tournament director of the Australian Open, didn’t take the USTA Player Development position that eventually went to Patrick McEnroe partly because he felt the USTA committee structure made decision-making too cumbersome.  But what is the alternative to a committee? Is it a vote of every USTA member? The Board of Directors? Every section’s employees? A poll? A focus group? One strong voice of authority? If this is a structural problem with the USTA, how do we fix it?

If I were the USTA, I would take Bryan up on his bet of 100 kids with vs. 100 kids without 10-and-under. It’s an experiment worth doing if he’s serious.

BRYAN: Don’t mess with our U10 ranking system and tournament system, unless you have broad based support and moving van loads of empirical data. The USTA does not. Period.

If they had broad based support my e mail would not have gone viral. The message is driving that e mail, not the writer.

Look at all the international tennis stars that have come to this country at the age of 9 or 10 and worked with our American coaches in the private sector and gone on to greatness on the tour: Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Victoria Azarenka, Tommy Haas, and Dmitry Tursunov to name but a few. None of them were part of our USTA PD program. I would submit that is why they had success. They would not have thrived in the PD program. Rafa Nadal was not part of the Spanish Player Development system. All Uncle Tony with an assist from Carlos Moya. Roger Federer Swiss National system. No way. Novak. Nope. Andy Murray part of the English National PD Program. No way. Andy Roddick? I never want to put words in anyones mouth – – – just ask his family what they think of USTA PD sometime.

ADIRONDACK: One of my biggest concerns about the ROG mandate is that it assumes that every player in the same age group is the same.  I have a kindergarten program and the ball that bounces to one kids stomach bounces to another kids knees.  There is that much difference in the sizes of the kids.  I would hate to see us end up with a system like the British where 8 year old’s absolutely  have to play with a certain size racquet and a certain ball regardless of their ability or their physical size.

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Below are some of the comments posted on the blog.

Former Tennis Mom said…

Good thoughts by both of you. As a former Sectional PD Committee Chair, I found the USTA National PD initiatives hard to implement at the Sectional and Local level. While National is looking for the next champion it asks “volunteer” committee members to drink the kool-aid and embrace them without blinking. USTA PD staff needs to listen to parents, players and coaches. With their ‘annual’ changes it is very difficult to know what path to follow for your player. 

Also, I agree with Wayne, USTA should not be in the coaching business.

steve1959 said…

Great debate and very interesting reading, Wayne Bryan is so right in many of his points, I am an observer from a far , and indeed time will tell , however the kids caught up in this development will never have time again ….so many people get it wrong so many National body’s get it wrong ,I have started and coached 6 national age group champions in the past 6 years out of a small obscure city in New Zealand not once has the National Body picked up the phone to say what are you doing to produce these players and do you need help.Keep up the fight Wayne someone will listen eventually ….or will they!


3 responses

  1. My name is Brian Sidney Parrott, father of Travis Parrott, and coach here in Oregon for the last 40 years….

    Patrick McEnroe, while assumably good intentioned, has close to no idea how this puzzle of using the legion of good coaches throughout the USA needs to be refined to efficiently develop players. Wayne Bryan, and a Greg Patton…both ‘nurturing’ personalities, need to be in leadership.

    We (USTA)..>I have been a member only 46 years…have got it wrong ALOT…ask Jimmy Connors, ask John McEnroe….ask me.

    I but my money on an ‘apostle’ of the game like Wayne Bryan…who knows the game from the five and under to Wimbledon. Sorry Patrick…step down and let people that have actually coached at all levels to assemble and develop the talent that is thwarted by the ‘control freak’ syndrome that is the USTA….for years.

    It is time for an open airing of these issues…and I would call for an open debate on this and other subjects…(the foreign players that eat up the $$ for US kids development is another issue that has NOT be addressed as part of the ‘situation’…

    Ken Solomon (Tennis Channel)….please invite, for the good of the game in the USA…a friendly debate…

    Patrick McEnroe and anyone he wants to bring…vs Wayne Bryan, me and Jimmy Connors.

    Let’s get it on…for the good of the kids and the future.

    Brian Sidney Parrott
    Portland, Oregon
    503 936 3203 (cell)

    1. Thanx for your thoughts on this. I am going to add it to the blog as a new posting too.

  2. After watching my own under 10 grandkids for a couple of years, I see this: they would rather play with regular balls, but perform better on average with the ROG balls — perhaps the phenoms adapt more quickly (at a younger age) to regular balls. If finding and producing phenoms is the goal of 10 and under tennis, then regular balls is the way to go.

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