Originally Published: September 9, 2014 6:02 a.m.
The writing has been on the wall for quite a while that Patrick McEnroe, the USTA Player Development Director since 2008, would not be continuing in that role due to various reasons, results, and the USTA wanting to take a new direction.
McEnroe, who won one singles title and 16 doubles title as a tennis professional, has gone on to become a recognized tennis analyst for ESPN, Davis Cup captain and more recently Player Development Director for the Unites States Tennis Association.
In that role he was to put together an elite player junior program for which he now has five regional training centers and 24 overall. This 501 (c) (3) charity under the umbrella of the USTA works with elite junior players in the United States helping them with opportunities they might not normally receive in their young tennis careers.
One of McEnroe's last comments in regard to stepping down was, "It's very difficult to create top-level players."
For this position he has been paid an average $1,000,000 a year.
Over $83,000 a month in salary to hold down the helm in what future tennis stars will hopefully be developed in the U.S.
It just seems like an exorbitant amount of money to pay any one person - even with the last name of McEnroe. There are so many great coaches that have a vast amount of experience in coaching that would love to help bring tennis back to the U.S. They would probably come on board for an annual salary of what Patrick was getting in just one month and work their butt off making good things happen.
McEnroe isn't to blame for saying yes to a great salary, but I scratch my head about who's making the decisions in the USTA in paying this amount of money for a position that at most should be in the $200,000 range.
Seriously, please explain the justification in this salary and how it has made a difference in player development that wouldn't have happened with almost anyone else that was qualified?
I'm afraid to do the research to find out the rest of the salaries in upper-positions of the USTA, the people who are supporting the game we love. Especially when I know of all the volunteers who work so hard in the trenches to make things come together in our great sport.
If making better junior tennis players was all about throwing money around we'd have the best players in the world coming out of the United States. Evidently that 's not the case currently looking at how many men are ranked in the top 100 in the world - just six.
We have the best facilities, coaches, programs, technology, equipment and a country that loves the game of tennis. But that alone isn't enough to create the most important aspects needed to develop top players, which seem to be DESIRE and WORK ETHIC.
How do you find the kids who want to live, breathe and eat tennis? That hunger for the opportunity to succeed in tennis and otherwise?
I think of people like Billie Jean King, Monica Seles, Andrea Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Pancho Gonzales, Martina Navratilova, Evonne Goolagong ... people who didn't come from wealth and yet excelled to the highest level.
Many of them came from nowhere with little opportunity but had a great work ethic and desire. Their catalysts were derived with help from different people. Some had supportive parents, a special person to take them under their wing, looked for an open door to jump through, had good timing and a little luck. But all had a tennis court that was available to them.
My premise always seems to go back to the number of tennis facilities that have been built at most high schools throughout the country - or public parks that have 2, 4 or 6 courts - and in many cases are underused with many falling apart due to neglect.
Build a tennis shed/shop at every one of those sites and place a tennis professional there to organize and run programs. Let neighborhood families have a better chance to take up the game. The ones that have that extra desire will rise to the top and be noticed.
Throw the money that is being spent in crazy large salaries to build $10,000 sheds and let a tennis professional make these tennis facilities hum with activity.
It's this type of community tennis that will help "springboard" our next generation of potential players who hunger for tennis greatness, which is not the number one goal (which is just to create a fun tennis outlet) but a byproduct of spending our tennis dollars wisely.
Ten grand to build a tennis shed at each public tennis facility, place a pro and let them do their magic.
Are you listening Mr. and Mrs. U.S.T.A.?
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.