Long Island Tennis Magazine asked me in the November/December 2011 edition: At what age or level, if any, does home-schooling become necessary for a serious tennis player? I summarized by stating "While the tennis rewards of home schooling are undeniable, the educational compromise and risk engendered by this road make it all too often a well-intended but misguided decision for families at any age."
I e-mailed the full text of my answer to Jose Higueras, head of USTA High Performance. He responded several hours later by saying "In general, I agree with you, but I believe it can be the right move for "some" kids. I find this a curious answer since the USTA High Performance Program at Flushing, as well as all other High Performance facilities recommends Home Schooling to most, if not all its participants.
I e-mailed Mr.Higueras back twice, each time asking him for a more detailed answer. First I asked, "Specifically, which children do you believe benefit educationally and vocationally from home schooling? I think the word choice "some" is broad. I then added, "The USTA offers a tennis training program that engenders home schooling and you agree that home schooling is right for 'some,' but not all kids. I think the ramifications of this decision are profound. Do you think it would be a worthwhile idea for the USTA to recommend or perhaps even to provide an educational counselor or consultant to parents as part of the High Performance Program?"
I have not received a response.
While we consult Zagat's before choosing a restaurant, and Trip Advisor before reserving a hotel room, one of the most important educational decisions in our children's lives may be made without seeking extensive expert advice. Since the USTA dispenses institutional recommendations about education from a position of great authority to eager parents, engaging an expert to help recommend the best decision would be the responsible thing to do. As a result, the appropriate candidates for home schooling can be identified from a broader perspective then simply, "tennis ability."
Some ancient cultures built Straw Dogs and worshiped them as idols in elaborate ceremonies. When this ritual was over, these Straw Dogs were discarded, and burned like trash. I listened to a great deal of spin during this year's U.S. Open broadcast from Pat McEnroe about the successes and promising future of the shining stars of U.S. Player development. However, these players represent less than one percent of the program. I heard nothing about the Straw Dogs of tennis who, with the blessing of the USTA, comprised their academic, social and career potential to drop out of school to play tennis.
Arthur Ashe, who championed the ideal that tennis can be the means to providing education and implored kids to stay in school, must be turning over in his grave.
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.