| By Steven Kaplan

Tennis participation numbers are down all over, and the Long Island/New York metro area is no exception. This could be a temporary cycle or an alarming trend and I hope it's the former.

It's difficult to say exactly why, but I suspect that the skyrocketing cost of college is a real drain on the resources of the tennis-playing demographic.

A new and charismatic American champion would help, but the initiatives taken by the USTA have been anything but helpful.

I've talked before about the USTA trending toward making the national tournament schedule more elitist in a misguided attempt to develop an American champion. Well I say they may take the credit if and when it works, but for now, must take some of the blame for it's failures. Tournament shrinkage is related to participation shrinkage. Maybe their stated mission should be more pluralist to "Grow the Game."

Oh wait ... it is!

Now the last time I criticized the governing establishment in this blog, I heard "Instead of criticizing, let's all work together." Well it seems like the governing body of college tennis, the ITA, is working together with the USTA because they are looking to shrink college tennis. In this case, it's a delusional attempt to make college tennis more television-friendly. There is nothing like two generals with a map to promote progress.The latest proposal is to cut the format from six singles and three doubles matches, to four single and one doubles match. I can see where this will increase the television audience 300 percent to what must be something like 300 viewers.

Of course, the 30,000 current tennis student athletes are less enthused about less tennis.

Here's an idea ... let's limit the huge influx of foreign players and increase opportunities for domestic players. Charity begins at home.

In doing this, the TV buff's chance to see more hometown tennis players should swell the viewing audience (to over 500 I bet) but more importantly, athletes will be playing more tennis and opportunities at home will grow.

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.