Friday, September 28, 2018

Thoughts on How To Cure The Drought of Officials



Its never good to be the person that complains about something and then offers no solutions to fix it--and I sure don't want to sound the alarm of our diminishing pool of qualified officials without offering some solutions.  Here they are:

*  Develop materials to give out at every tournament that enlist new officials.
*  Develop internet programs to enlist new workers.  Copy it from successful businesses if need be.
*  Encourage all officials to constantly be looking for new people to recruit to join our ranks.
*  Develop and use a new method of accountability to detect officials that need more training. 
*  If an official is inept or needs additional training then make sure it happens.  Nothing harms our cause more than an inept official.
*  Secure people who are willing to do training of new officials and then use them.
*  Work with collegiate coaches to find those who are willing to let you train officials in their dual matches.  On the job training produces the best officials.
*  Make changes to the requirements and programs only after you have fully developed the changes.  Nothing is more frustrating that being told something is changing and it will take years to implement.
*  Evaluate the need to keep requiring experienced officials to do the same thing as new officials.
*  Go back to some form of the schools we used to have to teach and certify officials.  When we stopped doing that, the quality and numbers declined in a hurry.
*  Have meetings of officials in your area where you can meet face to face and share some time together.  Bonding makes a huge difference!
*  If you are going to require webinars, make them more available and find a way to limit the interaction of those who would dominate the discussion. 
*  Requiring officials to watch videos every year is ridiculous.  Once will do it.
*  Develop and use training programs at every level.  Right now we ain't got nothing so anything would be better.
*   Remember--we pay dues to be officials so we expect something for our invest and more "bang for the buck."

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Help! We're In A Drought and Most Don't Even Know It



If you are involved in any manner in the USTA or ITA you know that we are in a severe drought when it comes to enlisting and training new officials--and it seems very few are doing anything about it...

There is nothing being done in Texas when it comes to recruitment and training of USTA officials and its beginning to take a toll.  Just look at some of the inexperienced, untrained, and unqualified people that we are using to staff USTA tournaments and that should tell you all you need to know.  Check out the fact that to be certified you no longer have to study and take an exam.  All you have to do is pass a background check and spend some useless time watching a video.  That ain't gonna cut it...

The ITA world is not much better.  There is not an organized enlistment plan in Texas much less an organized training program.  The only training done in the DFW area is the training we do at Highland Park HS and then we are fortunate enough to have coaches at SMU, UTA, and UNT that will let us do "on the job" training at their dual matches. 

The bottom line is that I'm tired of doing all the training up here and its time for some others to start stepping up and helping out--or the drought is going to get us!  Our leaders (paid and unpaid) need to step up and do their jobs...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

US Open's Greatest Lesson: What True Friendship Really Means



The men's tournament at the 2018 US Open taught us more about life than just tennis.  It taught us what genuine friendships look like and also how tennis players should honor and treat their friends when they are playing each other. 

Juan Martin del Potro's friends were a living (and shouting) example of what true friendship is all about.  These 12 fine young men stuck with Juan Martin through all of his surgeries and the difficult times of recovery and not being able to play on the tour.  They all paid their own way to the Open and were there cheering their hearts out for the entire tournament.  That's what friendship means!


In the life of a professional athlete, in any sport, times of rehab can be the most lonely and devastating times in their lives.  These friends made sure Juan Martin didn't have to go it alone...


Another special time during the finals match was at the conclusion when Juan Martin and Novac met at the net.  These two are good friends--and it showed.  Thanks to both of them for showing us what friendship really means...


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Is Cheating On The Rise?



Much has been made about Serena and her coach at the US Open and accusations of rampant cheating have been flowing all over social media.  Its obvious that there is cheating going on at the professional level and something surely must be done to correct it, but what about at the USTA and ITA levels?  One of our readers said cheating is on the rise in every area of tennis.  Someone also said, "Coaching is cheating at the professional level only if there is a rule against it."  Interesting logic...

What do you think?

My two cents from what I have personally observed:

*  Cheating by parents and players at the USTA level is on the rise and seems to be happening everywhere.  Parents today even seem more aggressive than in the past.

*  Cheating is prevalent at the adult levels of the USTA but players seem to know how to handle it on their own.  Since there is usually only one official per site, its impossible to fix all the cheating.

*  Cheating at the ITA level seems on the decline since most coaches are going to six officials for a dual match--and the players seem to take more pride in their schools and act accordingly.  There are always a few bad apples but the vast majority of collegiate players are great.

*  Cheating at the professional level is mostly limited to the players and their coaches since the chair official can handle bad calls.  Curing this problem is easy--just let them coach like they do at the ITA level and the problem is gone.  Should be done sooner rather than later. 

Check it out and let us know what you think...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Is It Time To Fix Our Sport?



After watching the debacle in the Nick Kyrgios' match and the women's singles final, perhaps it is time for us to rethink how we officiate tennis matches at the highest level.  Personally, I think the officials are well-trained in the rules but there might should be more training in handling stressful situations.  High stress situations are the most volatile at the collegiate level and become even more tense at the professional level so we need to be sure our officials are well equipped for the situations. 

Please keep in mind that at the professional level these players are highly paid individuals and are the life-blood of the tournament sponsors.  They are accustomed to being pampered and catered to, so that makes dealing with them much more difficult.  It is easy to say "rules are rules and they should be enforced" but monetary considerations shape a lot of thinking.

The best way to open up discussion on this topic is to simply share some of the ideas that we have received from all over everywhere.  Remember--these are not necessarily my own personal ideas but things that have been recommended from coaches, players, fans, and everyone.  Some are a tad overboard but here you go:

*  Make it very plain that all rules will be strictly enforced. 
*  Have a strict system of suspensions for those who continually violate the rules.
*  Allow coaching on court in the same manner as utilized in college.
*  If an official shows bias then they should be suspended or terminated.
*  If an official continually shows arrogance and contempt in dealing with players and coaches, they should be required to attend further training and/or be suspended or terminated.
*  Offer stress training for all officials.  Teaching them how to diffuse a stressful situation will cure many problems.
*  In Grand Slam events, from the semis through the finals, the chair official should be of the same gender as the players (with the exception of the mixed doubles of course).
*  At the US Open, all chair officials in the finals should be Americans only.
*  Monetary fines are fine but progressive code violations and penalties during a match accomplish much more in a key match.
*  Teach officials how to use discretion and wisdom in their dispensing cautions and penalties.
*  Absolutely be sure that the rules are enforced the same for both men and women.

These are just some starting guidelines to make our sport better.  Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sexism At Its Worst or Good Officiating?



Just when we thought the storm had subsided from the Kyrgios' match, all hell broke loose yesterday in the women's singles final with Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.  Now that Facebook and all social media is on fire with comments about the incident we thought it would be interesting to get viewpoints from officials...

We would welcome all comments but here are some things to consider:

*  The warning for coaching was warranted but was it necessary?  Most anytime you see a camera on a coach he/she is signaling their player something.  In this case, Serena was 100 yards away and couldn't even see his hands.

*  The point penalty for smashing the racket was also warranted but the question quickly arises, "Are the men coded the same for the same offense?"  We have all see the men breaking rackets left and right and we keep listening for those famous words, "Code Violation!" but alas, nothing comes.

*  The game penalty for Serena calling him a thief was sketchy at best.  We've all heard men calling the chair official a f___ing idiot and worse and nothing is ever done.  Remember--what's good for the goose is also good for the gander.  If you don't penalize the men, then you shouldn't penalize the women. 

All of the above offenses are legitimate violations but were they done with wisdom and insight?  Probably not.  When the winner of a match receives over $3.5 million, then it is absolutely imperative that the official rule fairly, consistently, and not inject himself into the match.  Unfortunately, in this case, that wasn't true.  One once wisely said, "A wise person will choose the hills upon which they wish to die," and that advise would have been well-heeded in this instance. 


The overriding issue in this has become was this a sexist action by the chair official...  I would hardly say the official was a sexist pig but I tend to think the rules were enforced differently for a woman than for a man.  I'm ALL FOR ENFORCING THE RULES but we need to do it fairly, consistently, and without prejudice.

Feel free to comment--we would love to hear your thoughts on this one...

Saturday, September 01, 2018

What Say Ye? Official Interference or Acceptable Behavior



By now, every tennis official in the universe has witnessed the event this past week of the chair official getting down out of the chair to speak to Nick Kyrgios about his tanking the match...

What do you think about this???  We will welcome your comments and thoughts on this one.

We will not publish our own opinion of these actions until later on but I'll give you a hint...  If an ITA official did this during a dual match it would probably be their last...

EXTRA:  Here is the comment from the USTA officials at the Open:

A "comprehensive review conducted by a number of tournament officials" determined that chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani's midmatch chat with Kyrgios went "beyond our protocol," US Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier told the Associated Press on Friday.

But Widmaier said that Lahyani would not be sanctioned because of his "exemplary track record as an international tennis official."

"He now has a better understanding of what our protocols are and was informed that he needs to stick to those protocols for the rest of the tournament," Widmaier said.  "Each of his matches will be monitored."

That basically is doublespeak for "we ain't gonna do nothing about it."



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How Would You Rule--Women's DI Bathroom Break...



Page 16 of the ITA official rule book says, "If a player (female DI player) asks to use the bathroom during a time other than changeover or set break and if that player chooses to use the bathroom, this is treated as the player's one medical timeout.  If a player uses a bathroom break at a changeover, set break, or as a medical timeout and returns late from that changeover, set break or medical timeout, returning late results in Time Violation penalties until the player is ready to play."

SCENARIO

Player A (in a women's DI dual match) asks for a bathroom break in the middle of a game--and they have already taken their medical timeout.  What do you do???

1.  Nothing.  Just let her go and be glad she asked. 
2.  Let her go and treat it the same as if she had gone on a changeover or set break and penalize her with time violation penalties.
3.  It becomes a code violation and should be treated that way.  

Another question...  If it becomes a code violation so you issue a code every 20 seconds or just what do you do???

REMEMBER:  The player has already used their MTO.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Checking Blood Sugar--A Rule That Needs Immediate Clarification



When a rule book is written the authors try diligently to address every situation imaginable and then deal with those situations--but there is one issue that needs further clarification for everyone's benefit--and that is the area of a player using a device to check their blood sugar and then how to remedy that problem.

This issue is relevant to both the USTA and UIL because it directly affects the playing ability and physical welfare of junior players.  Remember that if there is not a specific UIL rule, then they revert to USTA rules so that will guide our discussion.

The rule book says that taking time out to check blood sugar is not a medical time out so it does not fall under the time guidelines for a medical time out but where are the specific guidelines for this issue.  I have consulted numerous experienced referees and none of them have a concrete answer for this issue.  One referee had a letter from the USTA saying basically "just take care of the problem" but that doesn't help in reality--just leads to more confusion on the part of players, parents, and officials.  Here are some things to consider in this discussion:

*  Since checking blood sugar and treating it, are not a MTO, then what is it?
*  The maximum time allowed for a bleeding timeout is 15 minutes but what is the maximum time to treat low blood sugar?  It may take 3 to 4 minutes but it may also take up to 45 minutes.

Here is what the Friend at Court has to say:

FAC, Page 100:

E.  Medication timeout and bleeding timeout.
     4.  Non-treatable medical conditions.  Players may not receive a medical timeout or treatment
          any time during a match, a warm-up, or rest period for the following medical conditions:
          c.  Any medical condition requiring injection (other than insulin injection.  DIABETICS
               WHO USE DEVICES TO CHECK BLOOD SUGAR, ADMINISTER SUBCUTANEOUS
               INJECTIONS OF INSULIN, OR USE BATTERY-POWERED INSULIN PUMPS MUST
               NOT BE DEFAULTED.

Now that we know they cannot be defaulted, how much time can and should be allowed for treatment of this issue????

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Why Not Have Running Linesmen?



One of the latest and most interesting questions facing the ITA is the use of running linespeople in a dual match.  FYI, "running linespeople" means linespeople at each end of the court who move to cover the center service line as well as the sidelines. 

Here are the different views:

1.  No linespeople at all.  Sure can't understand this one since we have the officials to cover the lines in a dual match and they provide great help.

2.  Only one linesperson per match.  Not sure where the logic is on this one since the more eyes you have, the better job you will do.

3.  Running linespeople used whenever possible.  This is by far the best way to cover the center service line--and college men serve way harder than the human eye can see so why not use their help. 

Some conferences forbid their use, some use only one, and some use two.  What is your opinion?

There are also those who think the chair can and should overrule the linesperson if they disagree with their call and then there are those who believe that once the chair goes to the linesperson for their call, they give up the right to overrule the linesperson.  But then, that is a discussion for another day...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

How Would You Rule About Warm-Up Time?



Question of the day:  In an ITA dual match that was begun outdoors but was suspended and moved indoors because of rain--how long would you give the teams to warm-up when they went indoors?

My sources don't think there is a written answer but the general consensus is that you give them a 10 minute warm-up.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Overrules. Are We Seeing Too Many?



Nothing excites the home crowd more than having their player's opponent overruled on a line call--and nothing creates more angst and chagrin in a player than for them to be overruled on a line call.  Such is the nature of officiated ITA team tennis; however, how does a referee, umpire, or coordinator determine when there are too many overrules?

During the height of the spring season, everyone is hyper-active, hyper-sensitive, and hyper-hyper about overrules and always asking the question, "Are we seeing too many overrules?"  This is a legitimate question and one that deserves a thoughtful and valid explanation but its also the same question that comes up every year about this time.

As a referee who oversees six courts in a dual match, you are always watching and observing the overrules and overall behavior of the chair officials--that is your duty and one you should take seriously.  If you feel an official is overruling too often its always best to have a conversation with them following the match (definitely not during the match).  Here are some things to remember when asking yourself if there are too many overrules:

*  Overrules are going to happen because humans are making the calls (and humans are chairing the match).  Humans can and do make mistakes.

*  Just because a coach, player, or crowd protests that does not automatically mean the overrule was in error.  Some coaches just regularly protest to pacify their player or crowd.

*  A chair official needs to remember that they can and should overrule only if they can CLEARLY see an error and are 100% sure of their overrule.  Just because you "think" the ball may have been in is not sufficient reason for an overrule.

*  Any match can get testy and players can make bad calls for many different reasons.  Remember--you are there to ensure fairness of play and that includes line calls.  Don't shy away from your responsibility as a chair umpire.

*  Some officials are guilty of excessive overrules--plain and simple.  The best way to avoid this problem is not to hire them in the first place.  Believe me--we all know who they are...

*  If you are an official and you are consistently having 2 to 3 overrules in every match, you probably should look very carefully at your overrules.  Better yet, consult with your referee and/or other officials and ask them if they think you are overruling too much.

*  Begging the question of too many overrules does not mean that you cannot have a match in which there are numerous overrules on one or both players.  Some matches can simply deteriorate into a cheating fiasco and that's why you are out there. 

Personally, I schedule some officials who probably are quick to overrule and we usually have an on-going discussion about this.  Nothing undermines our job evaluations quicker than excessive overrules so it is our responsibility to be sure that things are done fairly, correctly, and in order. 

In a recent match, the home team had 6 overrules after the doubles were completed!  That's a huge amount but does not mean they were all in error.  Overrules have to be looked at individually and fairly before making blanket accusations.  If the overrules are excessive--then fix it!  If not, then stand up for your officials because they are doing a good job...

My rule of thumb:  If these conditions exist, then there needs to be some frank discussions among the officials:

*  An official continually has 2 or more overrules in every match.

*  As referee, you continually observe erroneous overrules by an official.

*  If the official continually brags about their number of overrules.

*  If you have more than six overrules in a dual match.

*  If the coach is questioning your very existence on the planet, then take some time to consider what he/she is saying. 

The one area of officiating that requires personal judgment is overrules so take the responsibility seriously and be sure of what you are doing.  That will inspire confidence in the players, coaches, and fans.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Upcoming Chair Training Opportunities

Have you ever wanted to be a chair official at a collegiate match?  Lots of people (and officials) say they want to do it but don't know how to get involved and get the training necessary to do chair work.  The best training program is offered right here in the state of Texas and is open to anyone who would like to participate.  The only requirement is that you be both USTA and ITA certified.  Here are the training opportunities that are available in 2018:

INTERCOLLEGIATE CHAIR ACADEMY
Plano, Texas
May 13-15, 2018

This chair academy is the premier chair training academy in the country and is open to anyone.  The academy is held in conjunction with the national men's junior college tournament and is a great stepping stone to doing collegiate work anywhere in America.  Participants receive on-court training by highly qualified instructors as well as individualized instruction in chair techniques.  Participation is limited but there are still a few openings available if you are interested. 

INDIVIDUALIZED CHAIR TRAINING
Plano, Texas
June-November, 2018

Chair training on an individual basis is offered in the late summer and fall seasons in Plano.  The training involves chair work at high-level high school dual matches as well as summer circuit ITA events and fall tournaments at SMU.

Training begins on July 7-9, 2018 with a collegiate tournament at UT Dallas as well as an ITA tournament at UTA on July 14-17, 2018.  The continued training in August through October is at Highland Park High School and features the top high school tennis programs in Texas.    

The culmination of the fall training is participation in collegiate tournaments at SMU on October 5-7th and November 2-4, 2018.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED in these chair training opportunities, contact Randy McDonald at 214 796 7402 or rmtennis@yahoo.com as soon as possible.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sometimes You Just Have To Make Do With What You Have...



There are times during a busy tennis season that you just have to "make do with what you have."

In an ITA dual match on Saturday in which there were 6 women's singles matches and 6 men's singles matches there were only 11 sets of singles sticks.  Thanks to the resourcefulness (and the consent of both coaches and players) they were able to make do with the box that the sticks came in.

There is much to be said for resourcefulness...

Friday, March 16, 2018

Can It Actually Get More Exciting In The ITA?



Just when you think you have heard it all and seen it all--something comes up that boggles your mind and imagination.  If it gets any more exciting in the ITA, I'm not sure anyone will be able to stand it...

Check out these two events that happened in the past couple of days:

MIND BOGGLING EVENT ONE

Male player A had served his first serve but was intentionally taking too long before serving his second serve.  The official gave him a "time violation warning" but then gave him a first serve because it took so long between the first and second serves.

Try to figure that one out but I imagine there will be a lot of players who miss their first serves that will be looking for their time violation warning...

MIND BOGGLING EVENT TWO

In a men's DI dual match, player A was overruled by the official.  After much protesting by Player A's coach, the official changed his mind and rescinded the overrule.  Then after much more protesting by Player B's coach, he rescinded his previous decision and went back to the original overrule.  

Absolutely mind-boggling!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

How Would You Rule? This Is A Good One!



We frequently get questions about "How would you rule?" in different scenarios and circumstances but this one is one of the best...

SCENARIO

In a women's USTA match/tournament with no trainers on site, one of the ladies (who also was an experienced USTA official) asked for an Medical Time Out.  The newly certified rover asked if there was anyone there to treat her--she said no.  The rover then told her she had 3 minutes to treat herself and started his stopwatch.  She said she wanted time to "self-evalute" her issue and the rover told her that extra time for self-evaluation is not allowed and showed her FAC Table 13 (page 98).  She followed his ruling without involving the head referee.

Did the rover make the correct ruling?  Have you ever heard of time for "self-evaluation"?

One official said you get 15 minutes for a medical time out so that means she gets 12 minutes to self-evaluate and three to treat...  Interesting!

Side note:  Table 13 under "who may treat" states "any person whom the player selects".  In this case would it be alright for her to ask a friend to come out of the stands to treat her?  However, there would be no evaluation time unless the friend is a qualified medical person.  

How would you rule???

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"Home Cooking"--Do You Code It Or Tolerate It?



Have you ever had someone look you in the eye and call you a cheater?  There probably aren't many more insults that can garner such explosive emotions in human beings.  But what do you do when a coach or player looks you in the eye and accuses you of "home cooking"?

In essence, the term "home cooking" means that you are cheating for the home team--and that also means they are accusing you of cheating and calling you a cheat...

On page 36 of the ITA rulebook it states:

1.  Unsportsmanlike conduct is punished under ITA point penalty system.  Inappropriate conduct includes but is not limited to:
   a.  Visible or audible obscenity or profanity;
   b.  Racket abuse;
   c.  Ball abuse;
   d.  Verbal or physical abuse of an  Official or player;

Since the rules clearly state that it is a code violation for verbal abuse of an official the question now becomes, "is accusing an official of home cooking (or cheating) rightfully considered verbal abuse?"

Many officials are extremely cautious when it comes to issuing a coach's warning or giving a coach a code violation--and so it should be.  However, where do we draw the line on that behavior?

One of the things an official learns about himself and his/her referee learns about the official is how much do you tolerate and where do you draw the line on how much you are going to put up with.  Knowing this is a wise decision but perhaps we need to rethink how much we tolerate if an official is being verbally berated by a player or coach.

Personally, I would code a player for that accusation and give a coach's warning if the coach is serious with this accusation.  Noone appreciates or should tolerate being called a cheater and that is exactly what this is.

One thing to remember--coaches learn the tolerance level of officials just like we learn the behavior of coaches.  I think most wise officials give a coach as much leeway as possible because we fully understand the stress they are under--but there is a line that should not be crossed--and that line is to call someone a cheater in plain English or using a slang term.

What do you think???


Thursday, March 01, 2018

Just Exactly What Does A Coordinator Do?



When I was the pastor of a large church we would frequently have big church suppers--and everyone kind of showed up expecting everything to be in order and in place for them to have a great time.  No thought was given to who is planning everything, setting up chairs, scheduling the food, and planning for the clean-up.  They just expect things to happen the right way...

And the same holds true for tennis fans, coaches, players, and officials other than the coordinator because it is the coordinator who does all the enlistment, scheduling, planning, and implementation of everything that goes into a great tennis match.  Once the action starts and the players and coaches are in full swing, the coordinator still has much work to do.  Here are some insights into what all a coordinator does...

*  Enlist the right officials for the right match.  Some matches are obviously much more intense than others and require a higher level of proficiency on the part of the officials.  A wise coordinator knows his pool of officials well so he/she can make the right decisions.  If at all possible, spend time with them on a social basis--its a great observation and learning location.

*  Study the behavior of the officials both on and off the court.  You have to know how they will react under pressure (like having a coach or player screaming at them) so do your homework and know them well.  Ignorance is not bliss in this setting...

*  Study the coaches and know them well.  The ITA world is not a huge world so anyone with a lick of sense knows they need to know their coaches.  Watch them under pressure so you are not taken by surprise in any situation.

*  Study the players and know them very well.  Most coordinators only have one or two schools so this is easy to do.  In my case, I schedule officials for six universities so its a little more difficult.  Watch them warm-up and watch them during team activities and meetings.  It will tell you a great deal about how they will react on the court.

*  Since most collegiate male players are Alpha males, you need to learn how to deal with that type of personality.  There is much written on the subject so it might behoove you to read it.

*  Communicate with the coaches.  A coordinator who just rushes in and starts giving orders is doomed to failure.  Most coaches are fine people and we can all learn from their wisdom and experience.  Ask them before the match if they have a player who might need a more experienced chair official and it will pay dividends in the end.

Remember that a well-oiled, functioning team of officials is the goal of every wise coordinator.  An official may have all the knowledge in the world but have no idea of being part of a team--therefore, you should pass them over.  Go for the team players--it will pay off for you in the end. 

Above all else--be supportive of your team.  Remember--you hired them and they depend on you for your support.  Coaches and players respect a coordinator who chooses and utilizes good officials and good officials will also respect a wise coordinator. 



Monday, February 26, 2018

Coaches--What Do You Do When Your Player Gets Overruled?



The most contentious moments in an ITA match always seem to occur right after a player has been overruled.  The player either erupts into some fit or the coach tries to outdo him/her and makes a fool out of themselves.

The one thing you need to ALWAYS REMEMBER--a chair official is not going to change their overrule now matter how much you rant, rave, whine, belittle, or howl.  In fact, if one of our officials lets a coach get them to change their call, they would never work for me again...

Here are some options for coaches to consider during this monstrous moment of decision:

*  Yell to the top of your lungs.  Just have to hope that your wife/husband and kids don't see you.

*  Berate the official as loudly as you can and call into doubt their birthright, existence, and mental capacities.  This always makes a great impression on everyone at the tennis center and actually turns the focus on the coach instead of the official.

*  Yell and scream and then whisper to the chair official, "I really agree with you but I need to show my player that I support them."  This has happened to me on numerous occasions and I always want to ask, "Your player knows he cheated and now he has you to stand with him.  How is that working out for both of you?"

*  Throw water on the chair official.  The results might surprise you...

*  Spit on the shoes of the chair official.  This one is especially adult isn't it?

*  Lay on the ground and throw a fit.  I've actually seen this happen and I still remind that coach of how much he looked like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum.

*  Crawl up the fence and scream to the heavens.  First of all, you probably will cut your hands and second, the Lord probably doesn't want you in His Heaven.

*  Actually say and do nothing since the chair is most likely correct.  Your player actually knows if they made the right call and sometimes they are just baiting you to see what you will do.

*  Tell your player that the chair made the right call and to continue playing.  I know this might be asking a lot of some coaches but it actually is the right thing to do.

*  Tell the chair official, "You cannot possibly overrule on the far sideline or the baseline (while you are standing one court away and say you saw it clearly.)  Remember--you and your players don't get a free pass to cheat on the far sideline or the baseline.  I can also guarantee you that we can see those locations better from a chair 6 feet up in the air than you can standing behind us.

*  Actually accept the fact that your player made a bad call and move on.  Happens a whole lot more than you think--and I guarantee you that we respect those coaches above everyone else.

*  Don't tell an official that they blind as a bat.  We're not and never have been and never will be so get over it.

*  Please don't rush on to the court screaming, "That ball was a foot and a half out."  Even you could see one that far out so please don't accuse us of missing something like that.  It doesn't happen.

*  Please don't tell us that we are cheating for the home team and doing home cooking on every burner.  I've only really heard of that happening one time and it was north of the Red River...  The bottom line is that home officials are usually harder on the home players than the others.

*  Give the same respect to the chair official that we give to you.  It will go further than you can even imagine...

We are all in this sport because we love the game.  Now let's all move on and do the best we can to make it all work.

NOTE:  All of these examples come from real-life happenings.  Now just try to figure out which coach did what...  It might surprise you.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Like Father, Like Son----Like Coach, Like Team


In the past few weeks I have officiated a match where the team was an absolute abomination in their behavior and also one where the team was a model of integrity and character.  Just like the times that you see a family with one child that is a demon and another that is pure quality--what makes the difference?

There are a lot of things that go into developing character and integrity in a child--or in a tennis team.  It takes hard work, consistency, accountability, and pure grit.  Not all players learn quickly, if ever, and a lot respond immediately so it is up to the coach to find the right balance and stay with them until they produce a quality product.  The truth is that the team always takes on the personality (and values) of the coach.

Here are some thoughts to ponder in this discussion:

*  A team will radiate the values of the coach.  Any time we officiate a match with quality players, they always seem to have a quality coach.  Never fails...

*  A coach with ethics, values, and a strong sense of morality will always instill that in their players.

*  A quality coach doesn't permit his/her players to cheat on a consistent basis.  The other side of the coin is that a team that consistently cheats usually has a coach that either encourages it or ignores it.

*  You can't force-feed integrity.  It always comes through when they are able to see integrity in deeds, words, and attitudes and then emulate it in their behavior.

*  The sad thing is that a player who has no integrity usually has parents with very little or none and a coach with even less.

A female official recently got her nose all out of joint when I suggested taking a prospective official to lunch so you can get to know them and observe how they live their life out in public.  I still hold to that principle.

Spend a little time with the players and the coach and you will know where their level of integrity stands...  Never fails.  You can learn a lot from officiating their matches but mealtime is the best indicator of all.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Things Heard 'Round The Town...



Tennis officiating is a wonderful profession--and it even has its humorous moments...

Here are some things we have heard (and have been sent to us) over the years:

*  "Most of the ball missed the line."

*  "Coach, the more you yell at me, the worse my eyesight gets."  Probably not how I would phrase it but got the point across.

*  After hearing a coach yell across the court at the chair official, I heard the chair official yell this back at him, "You yell at me and I'm going to yell at you."

*  One coach said, "Don't be offended if I scream at you.  Its not personal."  I replied, "Then don't be offended if I code you.  Its not personal."

*  One chair official succinctly said, "40 apiece" when calling out the score. 

*  A player said, "You shouldn't call footfaults on me because I'm not going to net behind my serve."

*  One self-centered official once sat in the corner and pouted.  When asked what was wrong, she replied, "I'm mad because I didn't get to chair the #1 singles match."

Just goes to show you--if you keep your eyes and ears open you can hear and see most anything at a tennis tournament.

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.

GUIDELINES FOR MEN

*  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.


GUIDELINES FOR LADIES

*  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...


SCENARIO

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????

PLEASE SEND IN YOUR OPINIONS BEFORE TODAY'S MATCHES OR BEFORE THE REGIONAL TOURNAMENTS THIS THURSDAY AND FRIDAY.

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...