An interesting comment was made to me in 1995. I was having a little give and take with some of my California college teammates when I mentioned that I won an Eastern Sportsmanship Award when I was a junior. My roommate and #1 singles player commented, "Winning The Eastern Sportsmanship Award means you are the best of the worst!" This comment was confirmed by some of my teammates. I realized that the other sections in the USTA look at the East as a bunch of big talkers who talk better than they play.
A couple of years ago I was coaching 3 Eastern girls at the Midwest Open where I overheard two Midwest parents talking about how all the Eastern players think they are better than they are. The other parent mentioned how their zonal experience at the National Tennis Center was a nightmare. Instead of defending the section, I listened to them vent.
Truth is, there are bad apples everywhere. When I was a junior, we all thought the kids from Florida hooked. I'm not sure how true this is. I see bad calls from kids in most sections. I also see kids carrying on with linesmen, strutting around the tournament desk and being obnoxious from all different sections. I do think that the New York reputation is tough to shake and a lot of people look to find reasons that they don't like Eastern kids.
It's funny though because the kids at the top of the sectional rankings are often (but not always) the most humble and down to earth. They let their talking do the work for them. It's the second tier that feels like they have to trash talk and be a major presence at tournaments. Last year, I coached the 18's Eastern Intersectional Team which is the top 6 kids in the section. No joke, they could not have represented the East with their attitude and behavior any better than they did. They took themselves seriously.
A few years ago I called a coach from a Big 10 school about a player who was interested in attending his school. I knew this coach for a long time and he was upfront with me. He said, "Ricky. I have been burned by the eastern kids attitudes too many times. I'll be honest, I need to stay away for a few years." As we hit the beginning of summer and national tournaments, it would be great if we could represent our region with pride and dignity.
Ricky Becker is the Director of Tennis at the prestigious Pine Hollow Country Club for his ninth year, coaches high-performance juniors throughout the year and has been the Director of Tennis at three of Long Island’s biggest junior programs. As a player, Becker was the Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis team and ranked in the top-five nationally as a junior. He can be reached at email@example.com, 516-359-4843 or via juniortennisconsulting.com.