Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pay Juniors

What can the USTA do to produce world class tennis players?  I vote for paying junior players.  Take the budgets dedicated to all the training centers and high-performance coaches and spend it on juniors.  Spend it in two ways.

First, go back to covering the expenses of endorsed juniors for the bigger national junior tournaments.  Use sectional and USTA funds to cover the airfares and the hotel expenses of juniors who qualify for national tournaments based upon their results in their sections.  The only way to earn this money will be to play in, and succeed in, sectional tournaments.  Each section will get an allotment of spaces in the national tournaments, like when I was a kid (my section got one or two slots -- we weren't very populous and we weren't very good!), and will endorse and pay the expenses for those kids.

Second, award prize money to the top finishers in those national tournaments.  With feed-in consolation at all the events, paying the top finishers in all the events should not be difficult.  I'd pay the winner, runner-up, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place finishers for sure.  That would cover the winner and runner up in the back draw.  I'd probably also pay out another half a dozen or more places.  I think the winner could get $5,000 or $10,000, with the rest of the money scaled down.  I think that would generate some great competition.

My inclination is to only pay prize money for the biggest national tournaments, but I'd be open to the idea of some lesser prize money at the national open tournaments, too.  The reason I'm hesitant to pay the national opens is that there are too many of them.  I want the best players to play each other and I want them to do it often with a lot on the line. 

Having the best US juniors play each other in big, national tournaments six to ten times a year seems like the best way to develop great players.

In between those tournaments, the best players will be able to spend their prize money on coaching or academies or travel to other tournaments.

Oh, I realize that this scheme would jeopardize the amateur status of US juniors.  So what.  Sham amateurism was killing tennis before 1968.  Open tennis has been wonderful.  Sham amateurism was ruining track and field.  That scam ended many years ago.  If the NCAA has a problem with this, they can solve the problem with one simple rule change:  professional players are welcome in college tennis.  End of problem.

Do colleges care if drama or music majors accept pay for performance?  I didn't think so.

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