When Wayne Bryan’s letter about USTA player development began circulating on the internet, I knew I had to respond to it, but I wasn’t sure if the USTA would. Today, I received USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe‘s response to Wayne Bryan’s letter, which appears unedited, in its entirety, below:
I admire the passion that Wayne Bryan brings to the sport of tennis. I applaud all that he has done to help his sons, Bob and Mike, become not only an amazing doubles team but genuinely great guys. Some of my greatest and most memorable experiences in tennis involve the Bryan brothers and all that they’ve done for our Davis Cup team and American tennis. That said, I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Bryan’s opinions on the myriad subjects—including 10 and Under Tennis and USTA Player Development—that he addresses in the “open letter” that has now been prominently featured in several tennis-related blogs.
It’s easy—and frankly, it’s long been fashionable—to cast a blanket indictment against the USTA. That’s neither new nor notable. I think all of us at the USTA would agree that a lot of past criticism has been deserved, but Mr. Bryan’s scattershot attack is so full of holes, hearsay, and half-truths that I feel compelled to address it.
Let me first say that the USTA has a clearly-defined mission—to promote and develop the growth of tennis. The USTA wants more people on more courts in more places; that is our charge as an association. As General Manager of Player Development, my specific charge is to help produce more Top 100 players with the goal that we have more of them competing into the second week of the majors. That’s a different responsibility but, in the long run, achieving that goal is at least partly reliant on getting more young people involved in the sport.
The world has changed—and tennis has changed with it. Our challenges as an association and a sport continue to evolve. Let’s face it, in a rapidly-changing global environment, if we’re not changing and moving forward, we’re essentially going backward. Tennis is simply not the same sport that it was 20 years ago—even 10 years ago. Anyone who was paying attention to the second week of this year’s Australian Open realizes that the bar is being raised as we speak. Tennis is much more of a global sport today, probably the most global, other than soccer. It’s true that Americans don’t dominate tennis the way they once did, but the truth is that because of globalization, Americans don’t dominate any sport the way they once did. Even sports once considered traditionally “American,” such as baseball and basketball have become much more international. Given all of that, if we want to ensure our place at the table, we need to have a strategic vision that encompasses every level of play and player—from beginner to pro.
Tennis has often been criticized for being too expensive and inaccessible. Those criticisms have truth to them; they are challenges that all of us involved in the sport face. And these are specific issues that the 10 and Under Tennis initiative addresses. When Mr. Bryan says that tennis, “grows from Main Street,” and from “solid, fun, dynamic programming,” he’s absolutely right. Tennis is indeed a sport that grows upward from its grass roots, and by making the sport easier for kids to play and enjoy, they’re much more likely to get involved in it and stick to it. That’s exactly the idea behind 10 and Under Tennis, and for any sport, that’s step one.
In terms of 10-and-under competition, the rule change adopted by the ITF and the USTA has, in fact, opened the door for more kids to get involved in junior competition. Two years ago, fewer than 10,000 kids were involved in tournament play and in the USTA’s Jr. Team Tennis program. Now, that number has risen to more than 32,000. We’ve still got a long way to go, admittedly. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of our potential. But more kids are trying tennis, and we feel confident that this rule change will open the door for more kids to get involved—and stay involved—in our sport. And that’s a good thing.
Read the whole Letter – CLICK HERE
This letter has generated a lot of additional comment. We will be posting a follow up article soon.