The Internet is abuzz about the USTA considering ranking points for high school tennis matches. The talk is that this will encourage top players to join the school team. It won't. Instead, it's a way for the USTA to boast membership numbers. Here's why ...
Top players usually choose to focus their participation on:
1. What is best for their education.
2. What is best for their ranking.
3. What is best to improve their game.
Let's face it, the top athletes who enjoy and appreciate high school tennis as part of their overall educational experience are already playing for their school.
The" number crunchers" who see competitive participation as a way to boost their standing recognize that "Tennis Recruiting" star rankings matter way more than USTA rankings.
If "T R" doesn't go along with the USTA and award points for high school matches, this new initiative is likely to undermine, more than reinforce, the validity of USTA rankings.
The fact that it's nearly impossible to create a fair point system from school play doesn't help. Top players looking to maximize their time are increasingly turning to home schooling, so maybe they will join the virtual high school team.
Since the mission of the USTA is to "Grow the Game," introducing seasonal high school players to year-round USTA tournament-inspired participation is a virtuous idea.
I hope the USTA doesn't try to sell this idea to the tennis public with the same misguided "This develops great players" zeal they tried to use in marketing QuickStart.
Giving ranking points for high school tennis is not going to create champions. It's a flawed but still worthwhile grassroots initiative.
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.