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."