The mission of the USTA is: "To promote and develop the growth of tennis." In the local area, we can now add, "To promote and develop the growth of its junior development program" and the first step in this growth is to promote an extensive free program.
The USTA is now in the junior development business and it is attracting the best and the brightest local talent by offering something that it failed to do for many years with it's Flushing Meadow, for-pay camp. It is free, and unlike programs such as The City Parks Foundation and The NYJTL,which provide training opportunities for high level juniors based on economic need. It does not provide opportunity for those who simply cannot afford training. Rather, selection is based on talent. No doubt this is a financial help to many families, since tennis is expensive, but there is a cost and it is not just to those clubs and pros who cannot afford to price match this large corporation, and are suffering as a result.
There can be a lack of accountability in this system and that can lead to irresponsible behavior. Unless someone can explain to me how it is responsible to take players ages nine to 14 and have them run stadium stairs when the thermometer reads 103 degrees outside, then it may already be happening.
The free market rules clubs and coaches, since any player can chose to spend their training budget as they wish. We must provide value and we are accountable to those we serve (no pun intended). When you are the biggest and wealthiest tennis organization in the world and you run a free program at the home of the U.S. Open, the rules change. You can bar parents from watching (it is a disruption) and you can even suggest to them that they shouldn't criticize the program as it creates disharmony.
Fitness training can take place it an environment that sees injury and fatigue as failure and weakness (well ... if you are injured, then why do you come here and waste our time). It is a great idea to get the best players from the area in one place and have them compete against each other. This is facilitation and it is needed. It is the competitive nature of coaches, myself included, that this does not happen more and it is our failure. I have written in Long island Tennis Magazin that If you seek to do more than facilitate, if you desire to coach players, then you had better be willing to take enormous responsibility and be held accountable. Then again, you get what you pay for.
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 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.