Friday, February 09, 2018

Officials Drought--How Do We Overcome It?

If anyone is familiar with tennis officiating they know we are in a dire drought when it comes to having enough quality officials.  In the USTA world we are seeing tournaments officiated by under-qualified officials on a regular basis and everyone just keeps complaining and asking why.  In the ITA world we have quite a few highly qualified officials but not nearly enough to go around when there are a lot of matches that need officials.

This has always been an issue with tennis officiating but one that we have been successful in sweeping under the rug and just going on with what we have--but that day is coming to an end.  When parents and players pay huge entry fees for USTA tournaments they have every right to expect quality officiating so its time for us to begin some difficult decisions.    ITA coaches expect (and rightfully so) officials who are qualified, experienced, and prepared to properly officiate their matches.  Due to the drought, I have observed USTA officials working tournaments they have no business inflicting their lack of training, knowledge, and experience on the unsuspecting public.  In the ITA world, I have seen coordinators have to put inexperienced officials in matches where they should never be officiating--and all because we don't have enough officials to meet the need.

We all ask--what do we do?  I'm not totally sure of all the answers, but here are some suggestions for us to begin to deal with the drought...

*  Develop a system of much more accountability among officials.  When an official continually makes poor or bad decisions, they need to be held accountable.  Unfortunately we have too many referees who just ignore ineptness to keep the boat sailing.  In the collegiate world, there is more accountability because you have a referee who personally observes an official in the chair (along with at least 4 other officials) so mistakes and errors can be dealt with quickly.

*  Re-examine our testing process for officials.  Just taking an online exam and watching a few webinars doesn't automatically ensure a good official.  Its a start but there needs to be more much more stringent requirements for an official.

*  Strengthen our on-court training.  Many USTA officials are just shoved out onto a court with no prior training or shadowing and then we wonder why we have problems.  I personally require an official to have done at least 10 training chairs before I ever even consider hiring them--and sometimes I don't think that's enough.

*  Develop a "buddy system" for strengthening new and weaker officials.  Pair them up with an experienced official who knows how to teach and train and not belittle and disrespect them.  Usually an inept official knows down deep that they are inept but don't really know how to rise up and improve.

*  Since pay is an issue, do your best to compensate everyone fairly.  I never ask someone to do USTA training with me without paying them the standard rates.  After all, they are certified so do a little on-job training with pay and there should be an improvement.  In the ITA world, an official may have to do a few chairs without pay but the referee should do his/her best to get them into the paying world as soon as possible.

*  Referees need to step up to the plate and do their job.  This is a job and not a fraternity/sorority where we hug, kiss, and drink beer together.  We are paid to do a job and we should expect quality officiating from our officials.  If they are inept, call them on the carpet and do something about it.

*  Tournament directors need to do their fair share too.  Quit complaining about how much the officials cost and start demanding quality out of those you employ.  Noone loves working for a tournament director who is late with their payments, complains about how much they are paying officials, tries to get them to work beyond their shift without pay, and cuts out their lunch or brings them a hamburger that even a starving indigent wouldn't touch.  Make the workplace better and you should see the quality improve.

No one thing will cure the drought but if we all work together, it can be done!  I hope we can count on you because we need a fresh drink of water in the officiating world.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Creative Chairmanship" Sometimes It Lends A Little Laughter

In the midst of the collegiate tennis season there are always those special moments that lend themselves to creativity and laughter.  Check this one out...

In a women's ITA dual match, the chair official on court 2 said the following:  "Game ___.  ___ just won that game and now they are fixing to serve being up 2-1.  Ya'll get ready to play."

Not to be outdone, the chair official on court 1 said, "40 apiece.  One of you is fixing to win this game on the next point."

Creative--definitely.  Humorous--surely.  Permitted--nope.  The players, coaches, and spectators all loved it but it surely won't happen again.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

For Pete's Sake--Proper Pronunciation and Enunciation Are Still In Vogue!

After watching last night's great match between Kyle Edmund and Gregor Dimitrov I just have to say something...  Who in the world taught that chair official how to talk?  I have never heard such a misuse of the English language with pronunciation that would make a sailor blush.  After listening time and time to, "Thutee fotee" pronounced through a nasal cavity I am wondering why they would ever think we enjoy hearing that.

I have spent 52 years of my life in public speaking on television, radio, podcasts, and in the pulpits of churches and I guarantee you that proper pronunciation is always correct and proper.  Not in my weakest moment would I ever think of destroying the English language like that.  Not only is it just wrong, it is an affront to the listeners to think they like hearing something like that. 

Heads up folks, its time to get on board with proper pronunciation and enunciation of the English language--and that means in an officials' chair at any tennis match on this planet.  I would be embarrassed to talk like that and so should they be.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Its Time To Legitimately Address Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

There isn't a day that goes by that we don't read about yet another person being accused and/or fired for sexual harassment--and many times the claims come from something that was done 20 or 30 years ago.  With all of the hyped up accusations its hard to find the truth among the thorns--but its something that must be done--and sooner rather than later.  As we enter into this discussion, remember that harassment can come from both men and women--noone is immune from this unethical and illegal treatment.

There is no doubt that there is sexual harassment in the tennis officials world.  I've seen it and experienced it first hand as I know many of you have also.  I've seen both men and women "sleep their way to the top" and it is not a pretty sight. The worst part about that kind of lifestyle is that when they get to the "top" they find there is nothing there...

A few years ago I was personally physically and verbally harassed by a self-professed lesbian in the pro officials ranks--and I guarantee you it wasn't fun and was disgusting at best.  After being verbally harassed and physically touched by this woman (as have numerous others by the same offender), I felt that it was time to come out in the open with it and make a stand against that kind of treatment.  I could not care less about filing some ridiculous lawsuit or seeking any personal financial damages but if someone like this could harass someone like me, then I hate to think of what she has done to others.  At the time I just blew it off and told her to keep her disgusting hands off of me and in retrospect, that may have been the wrong decision.  I should have gone public and had her permanently removed from our ranks.  Obviously, I didn't but it did help me learn some key things to remember when it comes to harassment in the workplace.  Let me also add that these suggestions come after over 50 years of serving as the pastor of a church and dealing with the damaging effects of harassment.  In today's world its not just the act of impropriety that is wrong, the very appearance of impropriety will sink your ship in a hurry.


*  Always treat men and women with honor and respect.  This will keep you safe and sound in the long run.
*  Always be polite and professional in your dealings with men and women.
*  Never flirt with a man or a woman (and you know exactly what I mean) as this will always get you in trouble in today's world.
*  Never touch another person in an improper manner.  Innocent touching will get you fired and sued in a hurry but inappropriate touching is absolutely out of bounds. 
*  When greeting someone don't hug or kiss them.  Should be self-explanatory.  The only exceptions would your Mother or your sister.
*  If a woman offers her hand for a handshake, do it quickly and very non-committal.  If a man shakes your hand do it firmly and look him in the eye while you do it.
*  Never find yourself alone in a room with a female co-worker.  It doesn't matter how innocent it might be, it can always lead to accusations that will destroy your life.
*  If you are the boss, never meet a female employee alone and if you must, always keep your door wide open with your secretary in viewing distance. 
*  Behave like a true gentleman and your reputation will always precede you. 
*  If you are hiring a potential worker, always check their background in regard to harassment issues.


*  Always conduct yourself as a lady and expect to be treated as one by your cohorts.  Your expectations will radiate into your countenance.
*  Don't fall for another person's unsolicited charms.  Many of them are masters of the art. 
*  Cultivate your self-respect.  How you carry yourself will communicate a great deal. 
*  Don't let yourself end up in a situation where you are alone with someone that you suspect might harass you. 
*  Be cordial and businesslike at all times.  Never let your guard down in today's world. 
*  Discourage co-workers from kissing or hugging you in public (or private for that matter).
*  Learn to have your "business handshake" ready at all times.  That can throw cold water on a predator in a hurry. 
*  Remember that men and women both respond to the looks you give them so be sure they are always above board. 
*  Dress like a woman who would like to be honored and respected.  You can never go wrong with this one. 

Hopefully these guidelines will help as we all try to develop proper working relationships.  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this strategic issue in our workplace today.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

New Verbiage For Pre-Match Announcement

Now that the New York City public transportation department has changed their announcement verbiage from "Ladies and Gentlemen" to "passengers", "riders", and "everyone" it might be a good idea to be politically correct and change our verbiage for the pre-match announcement from the chair. 

Please let us know which you think would be the best option:

*  Folks
*  Friends
*  Family and others
*  Interested spectators
*  Degenerate siblings
*  Uninterested passerbys
*  Perverted parents
*  Biased by-standers
*  Paying patrons
*  Rabble-rousing relatives
*  On-the-dole USTA committee members
*  Rich patrons

These are only a few options.  If you have some good ideas be sure to add them in the comment section.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hindrance or Code Violation?

Now that we are in the middle of the UIL playoffs for a state championship, there are a lot of really unique scenarios that arise--and on a regular basis.

This one happened yesterday and we need your advice and input...


In a UIL team dual match, boys doubles, Team A was serving.  The player who was not receiving on Team B would move up extremely close to the net and the center service line when Team A was serving to his partner.  

At one point, the Team B player who was up at the net had his head across the net when Team A served the ball.  At another point, he had the head of his racket across the imaginary line of the net when Team A was serving.

Question:  Is this a violation, and if it is, is it a code violation (and subject to the PPS) or a hindrance loss of point?

Hint:  Here is the UIL rule about a player standing in the receiver's box when his partner is receiving.  

"The receiver's partner shall not stand in the receiver's service box before or during the serve.  If a player does so, he shall be warned that if he does so again he is subject to being penalized under the point penalty system."

Does this apply to the above scenario?

The Friend at Court says this:  (Page 38) A player shall concede a point when:  *That player touches the net or opponent's court while a ball is in play, *That player hits a ball before it crosses the net.

In this instance, the player neither touched the net or the opponent's court or the ball before it crossed the net so how would you rule????


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Do You Have Ears To Hear?

There is a Biblical admonition that says that if someone has ears to hear--let him hear.  That admonition certainly holds true to those in leadership in the USTA, ITA, and UIL.  These are the three governing bodies that control most of the tennis world and therefore they should be the ones with "ears to hear."

We recently sent out an email to over 100 experienced officials all over the country and asked for their ideas and explanations about the sad job performance of many officials who work tournaments on a regular basis.

Here are their comments:

"Solution is easy, the USTA needs to bring back some classroom work for those who need it.  They got rid of trainers, with very little notice to the trainers, they have a crappy database NUCULA, paying more $$$$ to get a new one, but yet they are not doing evaluations any more, not doing doing class rooms any more.
You can only get so much learning done watching an annoying video and unfortunately not enough referees to pull officials aside to properly address issues.  Factor in USTA National does not punish bad officials for fear of lawsuits or does very little to truly address these issues."

"My first thought--and this is based on 2 minutes thinking about this--is that the change in training format (USTA and ITA) may have a part to do with this.  (Not all of it.)  And let me preface this with the fact that I think online clases are great!  However, with the USTA and ITA instructions being 95% online and 5% webinar, we've lost that "in person" aspect of training.  I think that is so important for newbies.  They need to be around tenured folks; hear how they have handled things; ask them questions and get an immediate response; get a hands on feel for the culture of officiating (at any and all levels).  I'm not suggesting that the training format is 100% to blame.   Some of it is just due to some people trying to achieve a higher level of stupidity!  But I think this has contributed to it."

"I can appreciate your email and the content within, but "us" talking about it will not make changes.  This has to be heard at the top, whoever that is!  On site training is more valuable than before, especially if we're not getting the quality of officials required.  I've heard plenty times while officiating, "we just don't have enough officials to conduct all these matches."  Officiating is not easy, especially in heated conference matches, but to me, the key is experience and great training...locally, regionally, and nationally.  The more chair experience an official gets, the better prepared he/she will be when the match is on the line.  So, let's start there....less on-line computer training, click the button and watch this video....and more local, regional and national training for new and experienced officials.  Training and practice are always the key!"

"I find umpiring especially on a local level in crisis.  Ever since the USTA moved away from face-to-face training (especially for newbies) and formal evaluation of officials, there is no accountability.  Officials fill the boxes with on-line training and forget everything else.  I am sad about the level of skill and common sense we are seeing on the courts.  Of late, I cringe when I check scheduless to see who is on the crew.  Unfortunately, this is a problem all over the country.  Chiefs are forced to hire bad umpires just to fill the schedule.  I am seeing this on the ITA level too.

I was the chair of officials in my area for years, a trainer, and a sectional evaluator.  We had very stringent standards that an official had to meet before working on their own, that is not happening now.  It took several years before working college matches.  Now all an aspiring umpire needs to do it take a test, then umpire on court (with some shadowing) and let an assigner know they want to work.  There is always talk about bad officiating, but the offending official does not get feedback, training, or guidance; don't want to hurt their feelings.  You are not the only seasoned umpire that is frustrated.  What are we to do?"

These are just a few of the comments.  Again let me ask, if you have ears to hear, are you listening???

Monday, October 09, 2017

We Know The Problem--Now How In The Heck Do We Fix It?

If anyone is involved in officiating as either an official, player, coach, spectator, or parent you all know the problem--a small group of very inept officials--and now we have to go about the task of fixing the problem.  The one thing I can assure you is that "it ain't gonna be easy..."

Most people would agree that the vast, vast majority of officials are very adept at their profession and knows the rules well and administer them fairly--but there is a small group that doesn't--and they are the ones that are giving us a black eye.

After every tournament or dual match you regularly hear horror stories of something some official has done somewhere in America--and many times, these criticisms are valid.  WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING to fix the problem and we need to be doing it sooner than later. 

Finding the problem is not the hard part--but analyzing and solving it can be tricky and really difficult.  Here are some thoughts and ideas to start the discussion:

*  Age is not a deciding issue in ineptness.  I've seen younger officials make some huge errors just like I've seen older officials do the same--if not worse.

*  Lack of knowledge is usually at the root of the problem.  Even though we all pass annual exams, we don't take a course in common sense and that's usually where we get in trouble.

*  Lack of training is a huge issue.  There is little, if any, training done or offered by the USTA or the ITA if one is honest about the problem. 

*  We need to discover a realistic approach to "mentoring" if we want to succeed.

When you are teaching a new hunting dog to hunt, you always pair them with an older, wiser hunting dog and let him teach the young one.  We might do well to heed their advice...

*  We need to look beyond knowledge of rules and study a person's personal traits before hiring them.  You need to know how they react to adversity, opposition, and problems.  Officials get into trouble when confronted by parents and players--not when they think about the rules...

*  Teach officials the importance of study and repetition.  There is no shortcut to knowing the rules since it take study and more study.  There is no shortcut to knowing verbiage because it only gets better by repetition.  There is no shortcut to dealing with adversity except through experience.

*  We need to expect and demand more from our leaders.  Just forcing someone to attend a useless seminar isn't going to fix the problem.  Tell them to get creative and innovative and FIX THE DANG PROBLEM!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Good Officials Are A Blessing But Bad Officials Sure Aren't...

There is nothing that thrills the heart of a referee more than to see his troops out there on the battlefield doing a great job.  Watching them properly introduce a match, carefully guide the match, and then make correct calls in critical moments is what its all about...

In Texas, its always exciting to watch our officials in action--and you never know what colors they are going to be wearing!  Our goal is to always make officiating fun, great quality, and diverse in color combinations...

HOWEVER, there is nothing more embarrassing or frustrating than to hear about or witness an official making bad decisions and acting like a maniac out of control.  In today's world, there is always a parent or player or spectator there to video everything that is said and done--and in some cases they can prove their point about "bad officials."

Check out the report we got yesterday about an official here in America (location will be a mystery so noone will be able to point a finger at any specific official):

*  The official went from court to court lecturing young players on every aspect of tennis rules--much to the detriment of fair and continuous play.
*  At one point this same official told a young man, "Shut up and play!"
*  The culmination of an infamous day by this out-of-control official, was when parents were getting involved in a match that already had an official standing at the net.  The aforementioned official then took it upon himself to leap into action, run across four courts shouting "I'll handle this!"  Then to his total discredit, he said (loudly enough for everyone in two states to hear), "You parents shut up and get the hell out of here!"

Even in the most ludicrous levels of reasoning and comprehension should this official be permitted to work in America.  I would simply recommend a new career for him in backstreet wrestling...  What a disgrace to our profession...

Friday, October 06, 2017

To Call A Let Or Not--That Is The Question

Seems that there is a new debate among officials in the ITA officiating world and it all centers around the question is whether or not to call a service let from the chair in women's tennis.  This debate is as old as the "which came first--the chicken or the egg."  I can remember officials getting all heated up and posturing about this issue many years ago...

As the debate evolves, here are some of the issues:

*  If you call a let, are you in essence making a call for the players?
*  If you give the players time to make a let call before you interject yourself and make the call, how much time do you give them?
*  What do you do if the serve is a let, the player returns it, and then you shout "let"?
*  Even worse, what do you do if the serve is a let, the player returns it, and the other player returns that ball--and then you decide to call a let?
*  Should you just leave the whole thing alone and just call the let when the serve is a let.  Seems like this has worked for hundreds of years and is probably a good option today.
*  Should the women's ITA adopt the same rule as the ITA men and just play all service lets. 

Not sure what the final solution is but be sure to give us your comments so we can check out everyone's varied opinions...

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Check Out Where Our Readers Are From

Here are the stats from a couple of days this past week.  Kind of interesting to see where all our blog readers come from...

United States   995
Italy   187
Russia   17
United Kingdom  15
Australia   12
France   12
Ukraine  11
Brazil  8
Spain  8
Germany  6

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

A Walk Around Our Tennis World--What We See As Officials

One of the special perks of being a tennis official is that you get to be right there on the court where all the action takes places.  Take a walk with us through some of the things we see...

First and foremost you get to enjoy the "unique" fans.  Some are good and some aren't so good but its quite an experience!

I don't even have words to describe this one.  

Their athleticism is indescribable!

How in the world can she do that?

Some take their cheap thrills where they can get them...

They do have their lighter moments.

Djokovic is the king of the antics!

Then some can't seem to play without having their Mother in the stands.

And this is what happens when he doesn't get his way...

They do get frustrated with themselves don't they?

Just hope you don't get to chair his next match.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Just So You Know...

Seems like we get more emails about Nucula accounts than any other subject--and that includes all the errors and mistakes we officials make on a regular basis.

Here's an email we received today:

"I've sent everything off...eye, background.  Just exactly how long does this crap take?
I just need a Nucula account damnit."

Can you feel their pain and frustration?  Sure you can...  Getting a Nucula account seems to be the "8th Wonder of the World" and noone seems to know why and noone can ever offer an explanation other than this:

Its time to do something and do it sooner than later.

Scenes And Emotions From Around The Officiating World

After each weekend's tournaments we get numerous emails about things that officials did (or didn't do) around the entire country.  Its always fun reading some of them but kind of horrifying to read some of them.   Invariably the question is asked, "Did we really train them properly?"  Guess not in some instances...

Just for fun, here are some good examples of different officiating styles and actions that you might enjoy...

"Now where in the world did that ball come from?"

"I can't believe I missed another one.  Sure hope noone saw it."

"I'll just dance a little jig before the players get out here."

"I'm getting out of here before that idiot hits me with a racket!"

Please tell me you didn't call a footfault on the poor guy...

"I can't believe I keep making the same mistake over and over and over."

"I'm so glad I'm not as stupid as these other officials."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

USTA Transgender Policy

(Transgender policy taken from 2017 Texas Section Tournament Director Manual)



1.  Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.

2.  Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:
   *  The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female.  The declaration cannot be changed,  for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.
   *  Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner  and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions.

3.  In the event of non-compliance, the athlete's eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.

Hyperandrogenism in Female Athletes:

If an athlete is not eligible for female competition, the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition. 

Definition of "hyperandrogenism":  Hyperandrogenism, also known as androgen excess, is a medical condition characterized by excess levels of androgens (male sex hormones such a testosterone) in the female body and the associated effects of the elevated androgen levels.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Over 700 Views In One Day--Our New Record!

Well folks, we went over 700 views today--our greatest number of readers on one day in the history of the blog.  That makes me think that people care about what they wear and how they look when they are wearing it.

Thanks for reading!

My Personal Unbiased Recommendation For ITA Wear

After seeing the picture above and the vast conglomeration of different looks and the myriad of shades of khaki, I would like to make this recommendation for ITA wear in the future.  Its purely my own personal recommendation and I know noone in the ITA will care, but at least I've tried to make things look better.

Start with black shorts since there aren't a hundred different shades of black and then require shoes that are primarily black.  At least that way we will look vaguely professional and sharp in our attire.  The good thing is that most everyone has some black shorts and/or pants and won't go out and have to buy something else...

The put the ITA shirt (of course, the material needs to be changed) with the black shorts and you have a great outfit!  You never see different shades of anything when you look at collegiate football or basketball officials so why should we be any different?  The KEY to making this look sharp is to be sure that all of your officials keep their shirts tucked in at all times!!!

Then to take the recommendation over the edge--a suggestion that if you have a crew of officials who are in shape, care about their appearance, and want to do something new and different--then we have the shorts with a t-shirt look.  Its made of material that won't show sweat in the heat so it should be something everyone would enjoy.  The T-shirt look lends itself to a more casual look--and would definitely need to be tucked in!

Swing Wide The Door! Change Is Here...

Since "change" seems to be the by-word all over America today, we don't want tennis officiating to fall behind.  Change is really here and its showing off in our apparel and the way we dress at tournaments.

The USTA swung the door wide open when officials were permitted to wear "shoes of color" instead of the all-white shoes of the past.  What a great change!  Our previous blog post about clothing is just a precursor to what will be coming in the months ahead.

Here was our sedate recommendation for USTA wear.  Over the weekend, I added a pair of colored shoes to the look.  Check it out below..

To say I got a lot of comments from players would be an understatement...

I would be amiss if I didn't bring up the subject of the new ITA shirts.  First, let me begin with my recommendation for style in the ITA...

Of course the outfit doesn't include the matching white cap which makes the outfit quite stunning!

Then the next question arises--DO WE TUCK OR NOT TUCK????  Personally I'm not comfortable with the ITA shirt hanging out but that's a matter of personal preference in today's world.  Check out the picture below and you decide what you like.  Note that you can have your choice in what look you prefer.

Now that we have discussed shoes, outfits, and "tucking or not", its time to check out the new ITA shirts.  There has been much discussion across the land and I'll not make a personal statement at all, but will simply share the pictures with you and let you make up your own mind...

Here is the new ITA shirt fresh out of the package.  Dang nice looking!

And here is the same shirt in a tournament on a hot day!

And pictured below is the same shirt on a hot day worn by a female official.

Now, you make up your own mind about this issue...