"It's halftime at the USTA. We're getting ready for a big comeback. Just don't expect any of us to drive a Chrysler."
Several weeks ago, Wayne Bryan – tennis coach, dad, and cheerleader – sent a lengthy, critical open letter to the USTA. He essentially characterized the organization’s player development program as being a rudderless money pit. The attention Bryan’s attack drew in the tennis blogosphere caused other notables to chime in. Former USTA coach and Top 10 player, Tim Mayotte, backed Bryan’s disappointment with a post on Johan Kriek’s Facebook page (the natural spot for such a missive). It got so Patrick McEnroe, GM of player development, felt the need to fire back. Below are some the highlights of McEnroe’s rebuttal, with added interpretation.
“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.”
If you’re going to say we suck, at least do us the courtesy of being accurate as to why we suck.
“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.”
This is the Moneyball approach, people. If we start getting players on base, maybe a few will actually score.
“Let’s face it, in a rapidly-changing global environment, if we’re not changing and moving forward, we’re essentially going backward.”
I’m pretty sure I stole that from Steve Jobs. Or maybe it was a Sprint commercial. No wait, it came with my dumplings from Schezuan Village.
“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.”
When’s the last time we won a World Cup?
“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.”
But I think we can all agree it’s nice to keep the “undesirables” away if you know what I mean.
“The idea that the more-talented or more-accomplished kids are somehow being held back or hampered by the rule changes that include shorter courts, properly-sized racquets and slower-bouncing balls is absurd.”
That’s clearly the fault of USTA coaching. Duh.
“Mr. Bryan says he can produce, “all kinds of kids around the country at 8, 9, 10 who can flat out nail the ball.” I’m sure that’s true, and in fact, I’ve seen plenty of them at our Regional Training Centers and our three USTA training centers.”
And by “seen” them I mean I’ve seen clips of them playing on YouTube. My broadcast schedule is a bitch.
“It’s equally important to note that the ability to “flat-out nail the ball” doesn’t exactly translate into a bright future as a player.”
It might even lead to a meth habit.
“Jose Higueras, USTA Player Development’s outstanding Director of Coaching, often has said that this country has produced plenty of players who can hit the ball, but far fewer who understand how to play tennis.”
Even far fewer who understand what the hell he’s saying half the time.
“Mr. Bryan likes to point out that the USTA has never developed a Top 10 player. I would ask him, “Who has, from start-to-finish?””
Seriously. Help me out. Bollettieri? Lansdorp? Who? Throw me a bone.
“Whatever the scenario, whatever the need, we’re there to lend our support to both the coach and the player so that the player can progress.”
And, of course, share in some of the credit. (Wildcards don’t just fall from the sky).
“Mr. Bryan suggests that the USTA’s thrust is to “get rid of the influence of parents and local coaches.” Again, that’s absolutely absurd.”
We very much need these people to give players transportation to our tournaments and pay their membership dues.
“Indeed, the amount of time that we spend annually meeting with and exchanging ideas with private coaches is off the charts.”
In all my written correspondence I always give a tip of the cap to Casey Kasem. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars? Pure inspiration.
“Just last year, USTA Player Development conducted 57 camps at our Regional Training Centers, where we were able to touch thousands of kids, parents and coaches.”
No racquets. No balls. Just lots of hugging and sharing feelings.
“As in most criticism aimed at the USTA, Mr. Bryan is fond of citing the “massive staff expenditures” of this association. Yes, we’re extremely fortunate to have the revenues generated by the US Open to help us fund our programs and hire talented people, but to hear Mr. Bryan tell it, you’d think our water coolers were filled with Dom Perignon.”
That would be idiotic; the bubbly would go flat as Tang. No, our coolers are stocked with wine from the USTA’s private vineyard. (Good luck finding that on our 990).
“I make a very nice living—I don’t apologize for that either.”
But I do thank my brother like crazy. If not for him, I’d be Jay Berger.
“But the truth is that a lot of my very talented staff take less money to work for USTA Player Development than they could make if they took their talents elsewhere.”
Like the PR lacky who wrote this letter for me in between taking my kids to school and buying my wife a Valentine’s Day gift. Hey, it’s not my fault Ketchum isn’t hiring.
“Mr. Bryan bemoans the fact that I’ve hired some foreign coaches; he decries the fact that none of my coaches have children that are champion players. Frankly, I’m offended by the former and amused by the latter.”
It really is hilarious how bad our coaches’ kids are. Bunch of spazzes.
“I still recall the best coaching advice my father ever gave me as a junior—after splitting the first two sets of my match, he told me prior to the third set to, “do what you did in the set that you won.””
I rolled a bagel in the third. I can’t tell you how many times I used that one with Roddick in Davis Cup.
“I understand a lot of the criticism and I’m happy to take most of it—where it’s constructive and where it’s deserved. The buck stops here. Certainly, when Americans don’t fare well on our sport’s biggest stages, nobody is calling the local pros—they’re calling the USTA. And they should.”
Ask for Lorraine. We’re paying her $600k to field complaints. But only Tuesdays and Thursdays.