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Globalization of Collegiate Tennis in the 21st Century


Reference is hereby made to our previous article concerning college tennis. In social media, our revelations have generated considerable exchange with solid points being made on both sides of the coin. Briefly, where one group believes that artificial rules have to be implemented in order to allow more US players a chance to engage in college athletics, the other group believes in a "survival of the fittest" approach. Where does CAtennis.com stand on this issue? In this case, CAtennis.com prefers to remain relatively neutral. Nevertheless, with the full understanding of the detrimental effects of unlimited numbers of foreigners on our universities' rosters, here are some benefits of maintaining the status quo:

1. Fairness. It is undeniable that certain schools have inherent advantages when it comes to tennis recruiting. Take for example the "sunshine belt" states. A lot of players grow up and train in warmer climates. Several juniors board in academies from California to Florida and from the Mediterranean to Australia. These players are accustomed to certian playing conditions (warm, sunny, outdoors) and may have an innate disposition to remain in these locations during their college career. As a result, it is often the case that these schools get the proverbial "pick of the litter" when it comes to a graduating class. Limiting the number of foreigners per team across the board would entrench these schools in their top spots without giving anyone else a fair chance to compete. Keeping competition open, ensures some degree of fairness within the system and makes for a far more interesting and challenging season (particularly for institutions beloning to far-reaching conferences). Furthermore, it is important to note that some of our players will simply refuse to play for certain programs even if they were offered a playing spot and a scholarship (preferring instead to red-shirt at more "sexy" schools with better football teams or social environment). Should these "lesser" programs shut down simply because our players tend to smirk their noses when it comes to enrolling and playing there? Several D-1 coaches have indicated to us that the programs would be put on the chopping block in the event they failed to remain competitive. We've already lost 580 tennis programs since 1977. Losing more programs will continue the downward spiral of our sport. 

2. Competition. America is a country that thrives on competition. Save for a few instances where certain competitive aspects are deemed to be against pulblic policy (e.g. opening up cross-borders insurance providers to unregistered and unregulated organization), the general belief is that the market is efficient and competition results in the highest quality of products and services at the lowest possible prices. A similar concept applies to college tennis. In this regard, competition is wonderful because it provides "our" best players the opportunity to compete against "their" best players with the end result that the level of all players will improve. If you care about tennis, this is a good thing. If college tennis is to serve as a "spring board" to the tour at all, it seems that best possible scenario would be to inject college tennis with as many tour qualities and elements as possible including tough, well-rounded competition. In other words, if producing world-class talent is our primary goal, dumbing down the level seems to be a backwards way of addressing this concern. Unfortunately, this is also a point where a lot of parents are unable to put their personal feelings aside.

3. Education. The principal purpose of higher learning is to provide a solid education to those persons who are willing to assume the responsibility. Expanding one's universe doesn't just happen in the class-room but it can also happen on campus as well as on the tennis court. In college, you are exposed - some Americans for the first time in their lives - to different cultures, languages and thought processes.

In terms of tennis, you learn how certain players play and think based on their nationalities and backgrounds. For example (and excuse the blatant stereotypes), you learn that Scandinavians are generally mellow but fun-loving people, with solid baseline games who are capable of playing equally well on the slowest of slow court and the fastest indoor courts (having grown up on slow, wet clay as well as fast indoor courts). You will learn that, for the most part, central and eastern European players have solid games, big serves and outstanding work ethic. You will notice that southern Europeans play with a lot of flair and have a penchant for the dramatic. Then there are the fired-up dirt-ballers from the Iberian Peninsula and South America, the wild and gritty attacking players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as the steady and methodical players from Asia...and many more in between. The fact is that most countries have certain "schools of tennis" or principles of thought related to tennis that are influenced and developed from their own tennis heritage (juniors copying their home-grown idols), culture, climate (fast indoors v. slow outdoors) and resources. With tennis being a global sport, you will have to learn how to deal with these various personalities and game-styles. A player can do so in college or he can be exposed to this dimension for the first time "on tour" (on his/her own dime). From a developmental standpoint, the better advice is to be exposed to these idiosyncracies early in order to have a better understanding of their games when you're out on your own.

4. Friendship. Without a doubt, at some point in your life you have heard that tennis is "the sport of a lifetime". We're not here to "sell to you" the game of tennis. Hopefully, if you're reading this site it means that tennis plays a huge role in your life. Accordingly, you will have to understand that who you are and what you do today might not be your life 10-20 years down the road. Tennis is a great tool for meeting people and making friends throughout the world ("networking"). This is particularly true for someone who is good at the game. You never know who you might meet through tennis which of these people will change your life forever. As a tennis player, you may find yourself anywhere in the world and by simply name-dropping some of your contacts and whowing off your skills, you could be welcomed into the group. This can happen while you're pursuing a tennis career or a career completely unrelated to tennis. THIS is what college tennis is all about; connecting with people, making friends and sharing a commong experience with people who, at first impression, may seem so different but who turn out to have similar dreams, desires and motivations to us. 

In the end, it is not the foreigners who are ruining the college tennis opportunities and experience for US players; we (coaches, clubs, organizations, tournaments, academies, players and parents) are doing this all on our own. Colleges cannot be faulted when the #2 player from some far off _______-stan is a more solid player than our #23 junior (numbers used as an example). There is a great deal of pressure on colleges to compete and on coaches to win. Contrary to popular belief, collegiate athletics is not a charitable endeavor. A successful athletic program is likely to have a better endowment than one with less-than-stellar results. If a foreigner is better than a US player for a particular program, the former will be snapped up first. Simple as that. This is why most football players are Americans, as are most basketball players, or track athletes. We're simply better at those sports than the rest of the world (obviously, we have a competitive advantage when nobody else is playing the sport - e.g., football).

The key is to find a way to develop our top 150 graduating seniors to be better than the top players from foreign countries. In other words, the internationalization of collegiate tennis is a developmental problem, not a college issue. If our players are better, no coach in his right mind will look overseas for a weaker player. In this regard, the various facets of the industry have to work together in order promote the game, grow the game and develop top-notch players. Coaches, parents and players must understand what it takes and how much it costs and get on the correct track early. Given our resources and our position in the world, there is no excuse for failing to achieve our goals. 

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Reader Comments (4)

The E.F. Hutton of the tennis world has spoken, and I'm listening! I had never thought of it this way, great article. When CAtennis speaks, the entire tennis world will from here on out drop their agendas, if only briefly, and listen.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKarl Rosenstock

If youre good, foreigner players will not affect your chances of playing. Same with jobs. if you are willing to put in the hours and do quality work, no foreigner is goin to take it.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraigger

one of the rare websites catering to those with an IQ above 100

(as a side note, average USA IQ is 100 and Hong Kong is 107, damn it!)


December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertweener

avg US IQ of 100? I find that hard to believe. Did international students participate in these tests on behlf of US?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraigger

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