Did you know?
By Jim Reffkin
Congratulations to Sue Jollensten and Dick Johnson as they conclude their term as Southwest Presidents of the USTA and USPTA. If you did not attend the fifth Annual Southwest Tennis Conference in Tucson recently, you missed an outstanding opportunity to meet the movers and shakers in not only the Southwest but Nationally as well.
Did you know, the USTA mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis? And it was not that long ago that communication and collaboration between the two most important tennis associations (USTA and USPTA) was poor and even at times strained. With the success of this year's Conference in Tucson, it is now obvious that each needs the other for a genuine effort to truly grow the game. Lots of luck to the incoming presidents, Helen Craige and Ruth Ann Gardner.
Speaking of growing the game, did you know that the Southwest is now the only USTA section that has voted to resist change and not allow our juniors to use the college doubles format in our most prestigious junior tournament, the Southwest Junior Closed. In case you have not heard, Southwest President Helen Craige, collaborated with a special committee appointed by USTA National President Merv Heller in finding ways to increase participation in junior doubles. Our National Davis Cup Committee also made it an important issue and is cooperating by lending support to the suggestions recommended by this national ad hoc committee. The plan is simple: use college scoring, one entry fee for singles and doubles, doubles finals before the singles, an individual doubles ranking and a much needed commitment to give junior doubles a little respect.
And can we show a little vision! Lets remember, these same juniors will be our future adults participating in USTA programming that features doubles participation. The fact is, if our children are not playing doubles as juniors, they will not "grow the game" for us as adults.
In truth, it has been a "dirty little secret" that tournament directors and USTA officials have unknowingly been slowly eliminating junior doubles in sanctioned tournaments. To make it worse, teaching professionals know that in order to please parents and gain a college tennis scholarship, there is a strong obligation to sustain a singles ranking. In fact, there is no time on the practice court for doubles and no time during the tournaments to offer a "quality" doubles event. Small draws, ridiculous scheduling at the end of the day and the continuous defaulting from players eager to leave town, has slowly been killing the game of doubles. Just think about it, who needs doubles more than our top juniors who slap the ball as hard as they can - hockey style - from the baseline without ever getting anywhere near the net.
Did you know, that after piloting the approved suggestions in the Florida and Southwest Sections, the changes are now being accepted in all of the seventeen USTA sections except Southwest. And this negative decision has been made by the Southwest Board of Directors, even though we have positive statistics to support an increase in particiption, even though the Southwest Junior Competition Committee supports it, even though the USTA Southwest Executive Committee supports it, and even though Eric Mitchell, the Southwest Junior Competitive Coordinator has been raving about how well it is working since its inception.
Did you know, the United States Davis Cup Committee, the National Youth Competition and Training Committee, the National Rules committee, the National Sports Science Committee, the National Tennis Innovation Committee and the voting delegates of the USTA Sections unanimously support these suggestions. Unfortunately, what was considered by many as a real "no brainer" has become a stumbling block in the very area where it was developed - the Southwest Section. I thought our mission was the "growth of the game."
On a more positive note: Did you know that every year the Randolph Tennis Center hosts at least four National USA League Championships? With the tragedy in New York, this year's events were really something; the outpouring of affection to the New York teams participating was overwhelming. In the first event, the New York team showed up in red and white convertibles with American flags positioned to wave proudly as they drove into the parking lot. I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it.