Thursday, March 26, 2015

Be Sure To Cast Your Votes...

For your convenience and enjoyment, we have added a "voting section" to our blog.

Check out the topics of the day on the right hand side of the page and then cast your votes.

The results should be interesting!

TV Time For ITA Tennis: You Can Kiss It Goodbye!

One of the most fun things about collegiate tennis these days is discovering which format you are going to be using and then the 15 different variations of that format.  Maybe we can enlist the collegiate deans to come to the matches and help us make sense out of all this mess...

How many times have we heard the refrain, "We want to simplify collegiate tennis so we can get more tv time" or "We want to make collegiate tennis "user friendly" so we have bigger crowds and get more tv time" or "We have to shorten the format so ESPN will televise the NCAA's."  All of that sounds wonderful but unfortunately there are some truths that need to become self-evident...

First of all, the NCAA is going to use the old format at the NCAA's this year--and that means matches that can last forever.  When we began this year using the new format, we saw matches well under 2.5 hours.  After a bunch of schools and conferences switched back to the old format, we are seeing matches regularly go over 4 hours and some over 5 hours in length.  And do people actually believe that ESPN is going to televise a 5 hour women's collegiate match???  Not in this lifetime.

Second, in all reality collegiate tennis is not going to be a big sell in the television market.  The truth hurts but the truth is the truth.

Since everyone in America (and the universe for that matter) have put their two cents worth in on the "format discussion", here would be my recommendation:

*  All matches for men and women alike would be no-ad.
*  All dual matches would use a 9 point system with all singles and doubles matches counting as one point.
*  Play the doubles first and play an 8 game pro set.
*  All dual matches would have a 10 minute break between doubles and singles.
*  All singles matches would be 2/3 sets with the final set being a match tiebreak.

May not be the best solution but doesn't dilute down doubles (which is the biggest crowd pleaser in a dual match) and will shorten the time for dual matches.

Here are some other options that might be considered to increase fan attendance:

*  Give away "tacos from Torchy's" at every home match.
*  Always have free popcorn and hot dogs during the match.
*  Give away a new Babolat tennis racket in every match in the time between the doubles and singles matches.  The format used for the give-away should be left up to the home school.
*  Have a drawing and let the winner go into the locker room for the winners' post-match celebration.  Not sure how this will work if a woman wins the drawing on a men's match or vice versa...
*  Give a school shirt to the "oldest person" at the match (and not a t-shirt but a good shirt with buttons).  Since lots of the older people want to protect the "purity of the sport" then this would increase their attendance.
*  Play as many matches as possible beginning at 6:00 p.m.
*  Offer free nursery care to those who need it.
*  Offer gas vouchers for those who travel over 50 miles to attend the match.
*  Have a drawing before the match and let 6 lucky people sit on the benches during the doubles matches.  Of course that means two people on the bench for each match.
*  In each conference the team that has the largest attendance for the year should have a huge party (with food and alcoholic beverages) for the fans at the end of the year.
*  Shave the winning coach's head following the completion of the match.  Not sure what you do on their second winning match of the year and not sure what you do with a female winning coach.  Those details need to be worked out in advance.
*  Play a "best of seven points" exhibition doubles match between the doubles and singles featuring the #1 player from each team paired with a fan.
*  Make the players available after the match to take photos with their adoring fans.  At no charge of course...
*  At least one time during the year, have a student propose marriage to their boyfriend/girlfriend and televise the proceedings and the result.  And to assure diversity--there are no limits on who can marry whom.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome To The Luby's Cafeteria Approach To Officiating

Seems that everyone everywhere is continually striving to be politically correct in everything they do--and that seems to have spilled over into tennis officiating...

Look at how we decide which format to use for an ITA dual match.  We usually ask the coaches what they want and they go along with it.  If one coach wants something that the other one doesn't want then we actually have to go back to the rule--but then, that's where the problems arise.  Seems that the SEC women play the old format and the SEC men play the new format.  The Big 12 uses the new format entirely.  UTA's conference requires that they use the old format and on and on and on...  At one dual match we even played where we would clinch the match when someone reached 4 matches but would play out lines 1 and 3.  Try to figure that one out.

Welcome to Luby's!  Pick and choose what you like...

Check out how we code coaches in dual matches.  They can say damn and hell and Jesus all they want but they dare not give Jesus a last name (i.e. Christ) or we immediately issue the code.  They can say God but don't add "damn" or the code will be forthcoming.  Someone needs to print us up a glossary of  terms that are not permitted and then maybe we will make some real progress in this touchy area.

Interesting that we let coaches deride us personally, denigrate our heritage, castigate our very existence, and question our ethics and morals but nothing is done.  Maybe its time we rethink the issue.

Welcome to Luby's!  Pick and choose the words you hate...

Note:  Personally I think that if a coach or player attacks your integrity and honesty then they should be coded.  But then, that's just my opinion for whatever its worth...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Come Work For Us And We Will Give You A 44% Pay Cut...

Seems like all the talk around Washington and Austin these days is about cutting budgets--and now the talk has come to the DFW Metroplex...

There is talk among some officials about developing a different pay scale for newer officials that includes a 44% pay cut from $18 an hour to $10 an hour.  The only excuse given for this proposal is that they are "new" and "inexperienced" and therefore deserve less pay.  Their main excuse for this proposal is that tournament directors are complaining that the new officials aren't doing as good a job as the more experienced officials.

Here are some points to consider in this discussion:

*  No guidelines are given as to what constitutes a "new" or "inexperienced" official.  All officials are certified and therefore should receive the same pay. All officials (new or experienced) are asked to stand in the same cold or heat and deal with the same players and parents.  Some offer that a "new official" is one with less than 5 years experience.  Basically, that is smoke and mirrors to cover up a pay cut.

*  If we are going to penalize "newer officials" for their lack of experience then we should also institute a program where "more experienced officials" are penalized for poor job performance.  Seems ridiculous doesn't it--and that's what its meant to do...

*  Let the law of "supply and demand" hold true.  If an official is no good--then don't hire them.  If the tournament director doesn't like the job performance of the officials being hired then check with the referee since it is their responsibility to oversee the officials.  If you don't like the product--then get a new referee...

*  In the Metroplex, new officials are already required to undergo a "shadowing" program and a "new officials training program" in addition to attending the regular officials school each year.  They have "paid their dues" in order to enter the officiating workforce by participating in all these requirements.

*  Some tournament directors are also referees for various tournaments.   This latest proposal smacks of being just another way to make more money.  The Biblical admonition, "no man can serve two masters" rings incredibly true in this instance.

*  The complaint that newer officials don't do as good as job as older officials simply isn't true.  Some of the worst officials are those who have been at it the longest.  Check out the complaints registered each year at the USTA and you will find that most of them are against more experienced officials.

*  If tournament directors are complaining about the quality of officiating by newer officials then why are no complaints being sent into the MTOA or the Texas Section?

*  Perhaps another way to consider the issue would be to issue "bonuses" or "pay incentives" to all officials based on their performance.  This would be quite a new experience in our officiating world!

*  Many officials are already being asked to report to work 30 minutes early without pay to "prepare" for the tournament.  This policy is expressly prohibited by the MTOA and should be reported immediately.

*  Officials are also being asked to "bring their own meals" or not being paid for meals.  This is just another ploy by some referees and tournament directors to make more profit on their tournaments.

As we think about this issue, here are some things to remember:

*  Ask your referee before the tournament begins what their pay scale is and if they provide meals and if they are asked to come early without pay.  If they fail in any of these areas--then don't work for them.

*  Do your very best job at all times and be conscientious in all that you do.

*  Make sure that you know the rules.  Study, study, study...

*  If you feel you need more training--then ask for it.  There are plenty of experienced officials in the state who would be glad to help you.

Hopefully this new proposal will meet a quick demise.  Learn to recognize it for what it is and then let's move on...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is It A Let Or Not?

There is nothing more frustrating that lining up to hit a winning overhead when you hear your opponent shout "let".  There is probably not a more contentious arena in tennis and seems that its become quite an issue in collegiate tennis these days.

What do you do when a ball rolls on the court during play?  Do you call a let if the ball is rolling along the back fence?  When do you call a let?  All of these are frustrating and legitimate questions.

Here are the rules:

FAC p. 50.  18.  Let called when the ball rolls on the court.   When a ball from another court enters the playing area, any player on the court affected may call a let as soon as the player becomes aware of the ball.

FAC p. 233.  12  Lets.  Requests for lets may not be made after a point has ended.  The Solo Chair Umpire or the Roving Official may call a let for a ball that is endangering a player or interruption of play.

Both rules are very plain but still doesn't resolve the issue in many instances...


In a men's ITA doubles match, team A hits the ball and it is obviously going to hit the wall behind team B.  Immediately before the ball strikes the back wall, team A sees a ball against the back fence behind them and calls a let.  The ball in no way endangered a player or interrupted play but the referee allowed the let. 


In a women's ITA doubles match, team A is preparing to hit a sitter lob for a winning overhead.  Team B sees a ball rolling along the back fence behind Team A and immediately calls a let before Team A can hit the winner.  The chair official allows the let.


In a men's ITA doubles match, team A is preparing to hit a sitter lob.  Team A notices a ball rolling on the back of the court behind team B.  Team A goes ahead and hits the winner.  The chair official does not call a let. 

All three of these are actual events (in fact, Scenario One occurred at the men's national indoor tournament.)  

Do you agree with the rulings?  How would you have ruled if you disagree?

My personal interpretation is that if the balls is rolling behind the player and endangers the player, then immediately call a let.  If the ball is along the back fence and does not disrupt play or endanger a player, then leave it alone.  

Unfortunately many players (and ITA players specifically) have eagles eyes and can spot a loose ball anywhere on the court and they are extra quick in calling lets.  Remember--any player can call a let but then its up to the discretion of the chair official as to whether the let will be allowed.

And the debate goes on...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Blog--On The Cutting Edge of Modern Technology


Just so you know how progressive and "cutting edge" we have become here in bloggerland, please note the coin flip app above that we now use in all collegiate matches.  The coaches love it!

Also, look to your right and you can see the new link where you can send us a personal email or comment without it going on the blog.  Be nice--and enjoy.

The Battle Cry For Consistency--And The Need To Have It On Both Sides

One of the most common refrains we hear from collegiate coaches is that they just want CONSISTENCY from their officials--and its a valid refrain and one that everyone wants and strives for on a daily basis.  On-court training and experience are the key elements in finding consistency but it will be an elusive goal as long as we are humans and have different perspectives.  But just because it is elusive doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive for it every day...

The one area that we could achieve more consistency--and one that is needed now and not later--is in the area of match formats in the ITA.

Seems now that some conferences have chosen to abandon the new format as has the NCAA for the championships at the end of the year.  Before every match, we officials have to check with the coaches to see which format they are going to follow, if we are playing "clinch-clinch" or some variation thereof, or just what we are going to be doing.  Nothing drives us officials to desperation quicker than this indecision.  In a recent match we were told that we were doing "clinch" in the doubles unless they were close matches, and "clinch" in the singles unless the #1 and #3 players were still involved.  Want to come try to figure that one out???

I did a collegiate match yesterday and both coaches had been told by their conferences and athletic directors to go back to the "old format" and "regular" rules for the dual match.  Unfortunately, noone explained what all this means to their players because when they arrived at court and were told to go back to the regular format and scorekeeping they had no idea what we were talking about.  You should listen to a Russian player trying to explain to his South American teammate what "regular" scoring means.  I should have recorded a video and put it on You Tube...

Personally, I think that if the NCAA and everyone concerned in the decision making process is looking for shorter matches and hopefully some television time, they need to stay with the new format.  Every collegiate match I have done this spring has finished in well under 2 hours but with the old format yesterday, the match took 4 hours and 10 minutes.  ESPN will be out the door when they know that...

I like the new format but I also liked the old format but its time for everyone to get on the same ship.  We're sinking fast with all this indecision...

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Gender Diversity--In Reverse!

Rick Gabel, Tom Wright, Randy McDonald, Vickie Wright, Myron Krueger, & Josh Harvey

Since our last blog post showed Randy with 6 female officials we thought it only right and proper to show Vickie Wright of Austin with 5 male officials when they were officiating the SMU vs TCU women's match.

Diversity truly is king in Texas...

Monday, March 02, 2015

Gender Diversity & Style All In The Same Match!

Texas A&M vs Tennessee ITA Officials
(Ginny James, Terry Gatzki, Vickie Wright, Randy McDonald, Betty Boyd, Mary Lynn Satur, Buffy Powell)

Vickie Wright sporting her stylish "fur boa" for cold weather.

The men's match today between Texas A&M and the University of Tennessee featured some great men's collegiate tennis--and a great example of "gender diversity" and stylishness on the part of a superbly dressed official.

Pictured above is referee Randy McDonald with his 6 worthy teammates.  The second picture features Vickie Wright of Austin, Texas showing off her fur boa which she wore to overcome the cold weather.

Let it never be said that Texas ITA officials aren't on the cutting edge of everything relevant...