Pat Mitsch, publicity associate of the USTA, sent me an e-mail the other day with an attached press release about the new USTA "Feeder Program" at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He asked if I "Can use it in New York Tennis Magazine," and I am happy to accommodate.
As explained on USTA.com, the "Feeder Program" for ages nine to 13 is "Designed to groom young students who aspire to become professional tennis players."
Young players with high hopes, dreams and aspirations? They should find a receptive audience here since the experience of being a child is defined by dreaming big, but junior tennis players with lofty dreams are not limited to any single program.
The program's new director, Erik Kortland, also explains on USTA.com: "It's about teaching a culture of how to play the game at a high level earlier than ever before."
The new director might have educated himself a little more about the local tennis community before proclaiming the groundbreaking potential of this program, as he is apparently unaware that several active coaches, myself included, have been creating environments and cultures of tennis excellence for nine-year-olds since literally before Mr. Kortland was nine.
What seems most unique about this program is its creative marketing model in which it appears that the USTA is actually seeking competitors to assist them with promotion.
I'm sure this will be a high-quality program that will compete with the other high-quality programs in the area, but I continue to question the appropriateness of the USTA expanding its footprint into the business of training local players in a for fee program.
Steven 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.