USTA Attempts To Increase Youth Participation With New Campaign, Program
The USTA has created 10 and Under Tennis in “its attempts to develop the next generation of tennis pros and increase participation in the sport over all,” according to Stuart Miller of the N.Y. TIMES. The program “became the official foundation for all USTA youth tournaments,” and the organization began “scaling down courts, rackets and balls for youth tennis.” Tennis Channel’s Tracy Austin said that the challenge has been “getting the teaching pros and clubs on board.” Parents of competitive players in online forums “criticized the new scoring system and smaller courts and the de-emphasizing of competition for younger players.” Lawrence Kleger, executive director of tennis for the New York region’s dozen Sportime Clubs, said that the “transition was bumpy because parents viewed the changes as a step backward.” In addition to new tournament rules and training programs, the USTA has “spent millions of dollars building courts: about 1,500 in 2010, 3,600 last year and nearly 5,000 planned for 2012.” The organization also “financed an ad campaign for the 10-and-under program last year.” The first commercial, “Fields,” showed children “dwarfed by the full-size dimensions of regulation basketball courts and baseball and soccer fields.” In another commercial, former tennis players Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf “read a picture book to young children about a girl named Sophie who tried tennis.” The small child “was soon overwhelmed.” Graf said in the commercial: “So she quit.” Agassi then says: “And took up soccer. The end.” The spots, initially “aimed at tennis fans, go mainstream this year, including showings on Nickelodeon.” USTA Chair & President Jon Vegosen said that the 10-and-under program is “the most critical initiative the USTA had undertaken in a long time.” Vegosen: “We are missing out on the best athletes because they go play basketball, baseball or soccer. This is transformational. It will grow the base of the pyramid” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).