| By Steven Kaplan

The USTA announced changes to the National Junior Tennis Tournament structure last week. It seems like changes to the national format are as inevitable as death and taxes and after speaking with many people, only slightly less welcomed.

Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget Bert Lance once said, "If it ain't broken, then don't fix it."

Why is the USTA National Tournament format broken so often that it needs to be reformed every few years? Perhaps each administration of the USTA ruling officials are wiser and more forward-thinking than the last? Maybe the tournament world is so fluid that changes are necessary to keep current to the ever-changing times? Or could it be that the USTA is guilty of a strategy of burn and churn?

"The changes were proposed by the USTA National Junior Competition Committee after more than a year of research," according to USTA.com. In fact, we are reassured by Jon Vegosen, chairman of the board and president of the USTA, that these changes were "heavily researched and well-vetted." I would love to actually see this "research" and I wonder, who paid for it?

Changes to the schedule include:

"Eliminating the USTA National Spring Championships in 2014 to avoid a major national championship being contested during the school year."

I like this rule change, but forgive me here if I'm a bit confused. Doesn't this rule only impact players who still attend school?

"Creation of more local competitive match play opportunities while reducing the expense and time of travel through new regional events."

It seems to me that several years ago, the USTA created a point system that encouraged a wanderlust feeding frenzy for point chasers and many have figured out that this system is not truly reflective of playing ability.

This is why Tennisrecruiting.net rankings are perceived as having greater credibility than USTA rankings by most experts, including most college coaches. Don't take my word for this, just read the last Long Island Tennis Magazine Coaches Roundtable Discussion.

I would hate to think that the most compelling reason for these changes are just to make USTA rankings more credible.

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.