The new shiny USTA Center in Lake Nona, Fla. looks amazing, but looks aren't everything when it comes to building champions. This beautiful facility is 64 acres on a $63 million dollar (at least) campus with more than 100 tennis courts. The USTA claims that it is the "Most technologically advanced facility in the world," and if you put an asterisk next to that statement, *without a PED Lab, I would have to agree.
The goal of this Center is to help build the next generation of U.S. Grand Slam champions, and I hope it works, but I have concerns. The Center will attract players from across the nation … if you build it they will come. They still might not win, however. Previously, the USTA tried harvesting the country's brightest talent to join their nationalized development system, and in doing so, excluded private coaches. The vow is to now be inclusive of private coaches, but that was the promise of the last several high performance administrations and it just didn't pan out.
It's important that the USTA hold true to their mission to work with the coaches that helped players ascend to national prominence. As Dick Vitale, the great sports announcer and huge college tennis supporter, said, "You gotta dance with the girl you brought to the dance."
Private coaches are the foundation of success for the development of just about every successful player, and I hope this new facility is a valuable resource to promote the strength of this bond and to make American tennis great again.
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.