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Jocko Homo 12/20/2006 - 4:24 PM

[Ed. Note: Red Ayme: Do not read this until after Xmas. Love, Santa.]

Howdy. Not a whole lot of dust gathering under my feet these days, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next day that I can wake up to sunlight. I left the IMG Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., at 5:15 AM, and I have a travel tip for any of you contemplating a trip to Tampa anytime soon. It features what might be the most confusing, work-in-progress, mismarked (always a good one!) road system I've seen in a long time. Can't remember the last time I got lost on what appears to be an easy, almost straight shot - all  on highway. It's no fun in the pre-dawn hours when you've got a plane to catch.

NbtaI hadn't been to Nick's academy in some years, and the place has changed from a distinctly underwhelming, almost industrial-grade facility consisting of a vast grid of tennis courts, a pool and a few low-slung, bungalow style outbuildings into a combination resort and NFL-worthy training complex, complete with an indoor basketball arena, a state-of-the-art training and fitness complex (the International Performance Institute) and a golf school.

But there's a parallel universe feel to the place to the place now. You enter through wide drive leading to a manned gate house; the security guard either opens the gate or asks  your business and issues you a parking pass. Inside, instead of the usual assortment of retirees and pasty-skinned tourists and well-dressed golf nuts, you see kids - all kinds of kids, in flip-flops and tennis outfits, belly-baring jeans and even ski caps. It's like the sophomore class of Walt Whitman High School in Anywhere, USA, laid siege to a resort, drove the old folks out, and started running their own show.

I'd no sooner walked into the reception area than Brad Gilbert came in through the glass doors on the far side, phone pressed to his ear. He informed me that before we could talk about Andy Murray or conduct an interview, we had to jump in the car and run some errands. Nick had asked Brad to pick up a Christmas present for one of his trusted lieutenants, Red Ayme, who mostly works with Tommy Haas these days. Red fancies "Philly Cheesesteak"  (think Checkers, or Sonic), a local fast-food place, so Nick was giving him a gift certificate to the joint.

Brad asked the manager at the counter if they issued gift certificates and learned they were available, $5 per coupon. The guy did a double-take when Brad asked for something like 30 of them. We ordered sandwiches, too, and caught up a little while we waited. Brad's a great guy; he's funny, irreverent and impish, and he's got no airs or pretensions to grandeur, and he'll talk sports with anybody, for as long as they 've(or he) got. He's a lot like Nick, who was a mentor to him, and to whom Brad is fiercely loyal. They're cut from the same cloth; each of them has a touch of the street-smart hustler and not a snobbish, arrogant bone in his body.

Brad thinks that the thing tennis most needs is a commissioner, citing the success of the NBA's David Stern. "You need a guy who'll crack the whip and make the tough calls, like Stern did in the Knicks fiasco (a reference to the recent on-court NBA rumble between the Knicks and Denver Nuggets, in response to which Stern swiftly handed out significant suspensions). And it shouldn't be someone from the tennis trenches, but a hard-nosed guy who knows and understands business, too."

We both agreed the guy who most closely fits that description at the moment is Arlen Kantarian, currently the CEO of the USTA's Pro Division. Still, it was relatively idle talk; it's hard to imagine the entrenched constituents giving up the little fiefdoms they've carve out, just to create unity in the game. Brad's son, Zack, who's heading to college to play tennis, was rooming with his father and Murray. So we took the sandwiches back to the condo and ate there. I'll have a fuller report on Gilbert and Murray after I transcribe the tape of our interview - the full monte, in an Q-and-A format, will appear in Tennis early next year, as part of a package on Murray's generation (it includes Berdych, Gasquet, Monfils, Djokovic and others).

Despite the massive upgrade at the IMGNTBA (take that, USTABJKNTC!), one thing hasn't changed. The nerve center of the IMGNBTA is still the covered walkway with the modest "stadium" court on one side, and the choice No. 1 practice court on the other. You can stand there in the shade, on the cement walk alongside the tall Gatorade water cooler, and watch, leaning on the fence on either side. It's where I first met Nick too many years ago to remember, and where I first encountered him yesterday. Same old Nick: shirtless, leathery tan, brilliant white teeth and bright, surprisingly light eyes, busting out all over with enthusiasm. He was working with Tommy Haas (Tatiana Golovin was on the next court over). He came over and embraced me, unleashing that trademark, gravely whisper: Peter boy, you gotta come see this new kid I'm working with. . .

NbI kidded Nick about the way he's been churning out player after player these days, each of them helping bury U.S. tennis into a deeper and wider hole. Half-joking, I said many of my readers were wondering what was up with that?  And was it true that Nick had made the USTA an offer to train eight youngsters, four of them hand-picked by the USTA and four by Bollettieri, with only one string attached: they had to be recruited as youngsters ("None of these 16 year olds," as Nick would put), and live the NBTA for 3 to 5 years.

Apparently, that was the offer, and it was turned down.

"I said to the USTA, 'You can take all the credit and get all the press. You just pick up the tab and we'll do the work." Nick wagged his head in disbelief and said, "Can you believe they wouldn't do it?"

I remembered that a few members of the Tribe had questions for Nick, so I asked about some of his top kids.

He's helping rain three promising juniors from Portugal, so it looks like TennisWorld spiritual adviser Miguel Seabra had better make sure his passport and visas are order. Nick reserved his highest praise for Michelle Larcher de Brito (the 13 year-old prodigy who won the Eddie Herr International  16-and-under at 12 last year). Near where were talking, a Japanese boy was lacing up his tennis shoes. Brad, who was jawing with us, said, "This kid is going to be awesome, probably the best player to come out of Japan since Shuozo Matsuoka. In fact, he's going to be better than Shuozo, for sure. And he's dedicated. He's up at like six every morning. You should see him! He eats these fish crackers and stuff."

Fish crackers and stuff, whoa!

It was both amusing and ironic to listen to Nick and Brad going on like this, partly because both of them have qualities I enjoy and value - frankness, animation and a blithe disregard for urbanity. Each of them, and Nick especially, is an easy mark for ridicule in the crowd that's awfully concerned with style points, even though the preoccupation doesn't earn them any, either, except among each other. And that's where the irony comes in. Brad is coaching a Scotsman, and Nick is as good example of an internationalist as you'll find in tennis; kids from the world over don't flock to the NBTA solely because Bollettieri is a dodgy, self-promoting, shades-wearing , opportunistic fraud.

Pretty soon, Nick was dragging me off to see his new War Room, a state-of-the-art internet center where Bollettieri's campers can review any match they recently played, on video, and then break down the actual footage into a kind of visual stat sheet, not only tallying things like unforced errors and errant first serves, but seeing them. You know what it's like to see a video of yourself hitting nine consecutive backhand passing shots over the fence? You can do it at Nick's.

Nick, BTW, is still on the court every day, pretty much from dawn til dusk. Awash in pro players and hotshot juniors, the academy has a pleasant and infectuous jocko homo vibe, driven by his loyal, former proteges, from Tommy Haas and Max Mirnyi to Serbian doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic to Maria Sharapova.

In the afternoon, I watched Murray and Gilbert practice, and then we all went over to the IPI. By the time I wrapped up our work, it was almost suppertime, and dark. There were some kids by the pool - teen-age campers, playing cards, messing around with computers, talking on their cell phones, parading around in their hip-hugger jeans and faux hip-hop gear, some of the girls bearing the unfortunate results of what appeared to be their first experiments with eyeliner and lip gloss.

I walked through the nerve center, where the lights were on over the two show courts. Nick was on the stadium court, dressed in a sweatshirt now, supervising a workout between two pros and a player. The player was a girl, hitting groundstroke rockets off both wings and popping in a decent little serve. I paused, and Nick introduced me to the kid, whose name is Greer Glodjo. I lingered alongside her mother, a chiropractor named Deidre Collette, chatting. Soon we were joined by Collette's husband  and Greer's father, Arman Glodjo, a mathematician and inventor.

We watched Greer working out. She beamed when she hit a winner and we all clapped. She ran like a deer, rallying with and even hitting winners against one of the pros, Reggie Moralejo. Greer seemed to really connect with Nick, even though he cut her no slack and asserted his authority if she started to hit lazy or flawed shots. At the end of one training segment, Greer and Reggie were both up at the net, exchanging volleys. They kept the ball in play, almost exclusively in the air, for a combined 94 volleys, and everybody collapsed in joy and laughter when the last ball was mishit and died in the net. That's right, ninety-four.

Oh. Did I mention that Greer Glodjo is six years old?

Nick is 75. I'll bet he'll be in the Player's Box at the U.S. Open, if and when Greer makes her debut there.

I said good-bye to Nick, told him it was to visit the again. I wished him luck with Greer, and said I had a funny feeling I'd seen this movie before. "You'd better stay in shape, ou're not getting any younger, you know?"

Nick laughed, but there was a note of wistfulness in his voice when he said, "Peter. There's never going to be another place like this, ever."


204
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Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 01:32 PM

"Letting a 9 or 10 year old (forget 6 - that's insane) decide that it is best for them to live away from family and do 24/7 tennis goes against pretty much everything I would want to teach my kids to value in life."

Well stated, Sanja. Couldn't agree more.

"If it was my son or daughter, I wouldn't want them to leave home, until and unless the desire was strongly coming from them. I don't believe this is possible for a six-year-old. Maybe a teen could decide for themselves."

Also well stated, Ray.

Glad to see the Stonada family is on the same page.

Posted by Tari 12/21/2006 at 01:35 PM

Exactly, Ray. What a pity, especially with a sport that really could be such an inexpensive option, if things were organized properly. The tennis clubs and good lessons, not to mention the academies are out of reach for most families here, I'd imagine.

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 01:35 PM

Gotta love when you answer the phone and theN YOU get put on hold. I'm playing again tonight at 7 at West Indy Racquet Club, north of 38th Street on Guion Road....c'mon you Indy TWers, I know you're just DYING to see me play...OK, maybe not, but it's tennis in some form! :P

Posted by Olivejuice 12/21/2006 at 01:38 PM

I didn't know you were in Indy, Ryan.

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 01:39 PM

You bet. GO COLTS!

Posted by Olivejuice 12/21/2006 at 01:40 PM

I'm about an hour and a half south of Indy.

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 01:42 PM

I work in Franklin though--the commute makes me sleepy in the morning.

Posted by Olivejuice 12/21/2006 at 01:43 PM

I bet. I have a close friend in Indy so I make the trip quite often.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 01:47 PM

Ray, you nailed it. The whole exclusivity factor is depressing. How can the average person relate to these tennis players, with priviliged upbringings of academies, etc? Especially compared with the top sports, in America anyway, of football, basketball, and baseball. I think Brady, Tomlinson, Wade, Kobe, Pujols, or Johann Santana are just a tad easier to relate to in this regard. There are a lot of Marquette University alumni who watch Wade right now and say, yep, I was there when he was in school. He was one of us. Phenomenally talented on a basketball court, but still, a student just like me.

I know, oversimplification, considering that many star college athletes probably couldn't find their campus library if dropped at the front steps. But I still think there's something to the point.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 01:50 PM

Ray, I couldn't agree with you more. But, tennis is the best exaple when it comes to exclusivity. Think about ice skaters, gymnasts and golfers? There are plenty of sports where you have to have some serious jack to become part of the elite. All of them require specialized training, practicing and regular weekend travel to get the points to be able to participate in higher scale competitions on the road to becoming part of the elite.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 01:51 PM

oops! I mean t that tennis is NOT the best example when it comes to exclusivity.

Posted by Sanja Stonada 12/21/2006 at 01:59 PM

Hi Sherlock! LOL.

I'm not sure I put much stock in the "If my parents only sent me to a tennis academy at six (or 8-15), I would have been number one in the world" regret. Sounds pretty self absorbed or a bad therapist pulled this one out or something. Where does the appreciation that you were born into a household in a free country with the potential for that opportunity fit in? This is your problem in life?

Posted by Rosangel 12/21/2006 at 02:12 PM

Sanja, Ray, Sherlock: God. I must have been an impossible ten year old. Would you also not want your child living away from home to get a much better education at that age? Or is it just tennis-related reasons that aren't acceptable? Just curious.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 12/21/2006 at 02:12 PM

Ray and Sherlock, I don't know whether the exclusivity factor is unique to tennis. As a parent of boys who's around them and their friends in a bunch of sports, the same sort of dedication, time, professional training, and coaching appears to be needed to succeed in baseball, soccer, football, and, for many, basketball. Whether the coaches are parents, friends, high school coaches, YMCA, Cal Ripken training folks, whoever, you get the idea. Here in Miami, any parent whose kid is serious about baseball (and there are plenty) has some level of professional assistance in order to take him to the next level.

Even in the case of the Williams sisters, as most tennis fans know, once Richard moved to Florida he got plenty of high-level coaching (Rick Macci, Nick etc.) to take them to the next level. Of course there are always exceptions. And the kid needs talent, skill, and a desire to win. But sports are too competitive and too lucrative to do it any other way and hope to maximize the prospect's chances of success.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 02:14 PM

Hi, Sanja!! :) Is Chateau Stonada ready for the Christmas gatherings?

Good point, Lisa. Ice skaters, gymnasts, golfers...gosh, I hate tennis being in that group. It's just a BETTER sport, dang it. :)

I'm late with this, but Meredith, I love your advertising campaign idea. With the incredible collective wit and brainpower we have here, we oughta be able to come up with some great ideas.

Speaking of late, Steggy, your "I feel worse for the ones who make it" post was wonderful. Very, very perceptive. That really got me thinking. And if you knew what a difficult task THAT was today, you'd realize just what a compliment that is.

"So there you have it - apparently you get educated, practise tennis skills and are successful off court as well - nirvana! I wonder if some parents enrol their kids at birth."

Sophie, I'm still chuckling about this one. Bravo!! :)

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 02:23 PM

Rosangel - I suppose I could think of situations (though I think this is taking it out of context) where family separation for education might make sense. The thing is although the regret might be there, the understanding that it was done for the betterment of oneself and for a better life would also be there. This just doesn't hold up when the goal is tennis stardom.

Speaking of late to the table - Pam I really enjoyed your post on the WC's.

Sherlock I have all my "asisstants" hard at work. That Chateau better be ready or heads will roll. You DON'T want to see Raymond when he gets mad!

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 02:25 PM

Rosangel,

For me personally, no, I wouldn't even think of having my child live away from home at age 10. Too many important experiences missed at home. I'm all for a better education, but I think the difference in quality of education in that case is miniscule compared to the loss of life values and lessons taught at home.

Plus, I feel it's one of those cases where the sponge is only going to soak up so much. Like cramming for finals the night before, at some point, the ol' brain just isn't retaining one more iota of information. A happy, well-adjusted child at home is going to soak up more in the long run than one sent away and having to deal with all sorts of emotionally challenging adjustment issues.

Just my two cents. I realize every child is different and some may thrive being sent away. I just don't think it's many, if they and their parents are totally honest.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 02:30 PM

Okay Sania, you hit on something that I think is the center of it all: stardom.
I think if stardom is a goal, then the child will always be on some sort of slippery slope because of the fickleness of the general public.
But, if the goal is to be the best in the world, that's a whole different situation. And, this is harder to achieve than stardom, but perhaps more pure and substative.
Roger was the best in the world for several years before he was deemed a "star." Even now, his star doesn't shine as brightly as perhaps it should compared to other tennis or atheletes in general.
Stardom is usually lit by the athlete and stoked by the media. Does that make sense?

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 02:30 PM

Well I think this is out of context now. Because I'm thinking of a family from the third world that has a chance to send their child off for a better life and Sherlock apparently is talking about public school as opposed to Ivy covered prep school. Perhaps this conversation has strayed a little? : )

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 02:37 PM

Okay, I'm confused now.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 02:37 PM

Todd and in Charge,

Excellent point, as always. Between you, Hank, and Skip, I could read your guys' excellent analysis of things all day long. But I digress.

I agree. Seeing my son and his friends in the baseball and basketball situations I've been involved in, both coaching and as simply a team parent, there is certainly a lot of extra coaching that goes on in specialized situations. While I get tired of some of that too (it really goes overboard sometimes...can't we just let the kids be kids?), at least they're home. It's the whole going away to boarding school to make Johnny a world famous star that makes me nauseous.

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 02:37 PM

Lisa, yes that makes sense. In my defense I was using that word flippantly.

I prefer the goal to be - be the best that you can be in anything you try, and not "I am the best at -blank- in the world".

I think it's naive to think that the fame and money are not amongst the largest motivators for parents/kids at these academies at this age. Just my hunch.

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 02:39 PM

I'm wondering when a boarding school, in particular the ones at those tennis academies, *ever* qualified as "better education".

(Public school isn't much better, I know.. but *still*)

As far as regular boarding schools go, well, I suppose there were educational opportunities presented.. when the boarders weren't off getting drunk or stoned on a daily basis. *shrug*

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 02:39 PM

Sanja, Lisa, sorry. I thought that's where Rosangel's question was directed, so I headed down that path. :)

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 02:40 PM

Lisa are you still confused? I didn't see your post before I posted that one right after you - it was refering to Ros question.

Or am I confusing with something I said?

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 02:44 PM

Okay Sherlock, I admire your take on it. But, let's consider that there are plenty of absentee parents and lonely children at home. This could be latch-key children whose single parent must work multiple jobs to keep a roof over their head; to corporate parents whose jobs keep them at the office in order to maintain the multi-million mortgage.
So, sending a kid to an academy isn't necessarily changing the child's want or need for their parents when kids who don't go to academies suffer from the same things.

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 02:45 PM

Ok people I'm out there seems to be no parameters to limit this conversation - it kind of makes it futile to discuss.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 02:46 PM

Sania, Sherlock--I've moved on. Confusion is behind me.

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 02:47 PM

I think it's naive to think that the fame and money are not amongst the largest motivators for parents/kids at these academies at this age. Just my hunch.

Maybe for parents, but I am not sure how much Greer (for instance) realises that she is being groomed for greatness, success, happiness etc.
Ultimately all those things are relative measures. In that regard it is probably good she that lives among and compares herself with other motivated kids in these academies. Atleast she is not setting her expectations based on the fact that she beats the pants of her "average" public school going contemporaries.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 02:48 PM

Sanja--yes, "try to be the best that I can be" is really the best or more admirable goal.

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 02:56 PM

My favorite poster, DM, wrote:
-However, there is the slightly annoying statistic that junior and pro tennis in this country was far better when there were no academies than it is now.-

I am not too sure about this statement. If 'in this country' refers to players that are eligible for DC play for the United States of America, then the statement is cut and dried.
But who do we consider US tennis 'products'? Wouldn't players like Sharapova qualify (because of extensive work with Lansdorp, NBTA at age 7, etc.)? For that example, didn't a USA trained player win the women's championship this year?
Affiliations to country might mask the success rate of these academies in the current analysis.

Posted by FoT 12/21/2006 at 02:59 PM

Ros - I think Roger wasn't 'happy about leaving' his home to go train was due primarily to 2 reasons (1) he didn't speak French at that time so it was a language barrier; and (2) he was one of the smallest/youngest kids at the Swiss Academy and lost a lot! But he quickly turned that around on both accounts and now he's very fluent in French and he's beating up all the kids that use to beat him in tennis! Talk about a turn-a-round!

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 03:10 PM

Lisa, sorry about the confusion. Good points on your last post, btw. Good discussion. Thanks for that.

Posted by Rosangel 12/21/2006 at 03:18 PM

When your choice is between living away from your parents some of the time in order to attend a really good school to which you have won a place on merit, or going to the local un-academic don't-care school where you are constantly bullied for actually wanting to do your schoolwork, and stigmatised because you are the brightest kid in the place and are trying to make something of yourself, it's not that tough a choice. Even at age ten.

I'm saying to myself: it is for me to say that some people, because they want to be the best in a sport as opposed to trying to be the best academically, are any less capable of making a rational choice, even at a young age? Being the best, or near the best, can still improve someone's life immeasurably - not just the wealth, but also reaching goals you have strived for, and the lessons you learn in doing that. Though the money may help a great deal, after the sports career is over.

Not everyone has the ideal family circumstances. Not all parents are as supportive as you all would be. Not everyone's parents can uproot themselves and go and live near an academy and be with them all the time.

Posted by rafa fan 12/21/2006 at 03:24 PM

Does anyone know, what does the title of this blog mean?

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 03:35 PM

I think the title of the blog can be taken many ways

jocko homo (the man as jock)
urban slang "a straight jock who is so straight and so jock-like that he's obviously a neandertal and/or gay"

or, of course, the kick-ass song by Devo available on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRguZr0xCOc
lyrics available at
http://www.lyricsfreak.com/d/devo/jocko+homo_20039622.html

Posted by momofan 12/21/2006 at 03:36 PM

Even though I love tennis a lot, I agree with Ray when I say that I have often felt that tennis is an elite/exclusive sport. Apart from the Williams sisters and Hingis (who were both coached by their parents, and, in Hingis's case, a former pro/academy owner), most of the top players we think of today went to some kind of *really good*/international academy, living away from their family. I'm not only talking about the Bollettieri babes (Sharapova, Vaidisova, Jankovic) but also about Sanchez-Casal Academy (Kuznetsova), and the Russian, French, and Belgian training academies. Contrast this to, say, Tom Brady, who went to San Mateo High School, where his dad would tape all of his games, and U. of Michigan, but NOT some kind of "football training camp," and you can see how tennis gets its "exclusive" rep for needing all these fancy-shmancy tennis centers to train kids from a young age to be the best of the best.

Of course, I'm also a little jealous (who wouldn't be?), not only of the kids whose parents pay for these training academies, but also of my friends who can't even keep the ball in the four service boxes, never mind playing "full-court," but yet pay $80/hr. for professional tennis lessons. My brother and I simply play in the public courts, and we're no Einsteins, but we can sustain a simple rally, and yet, we weren't allowed to take further lessons when it became evident that we could use some professional advice on our strokes, strategies, volleys, etc. I'm not trying to complain about my evil step-parents in a Cinderella-esque fashion here, because obviously my parents are great, but it still left a sour taste in my mouth when I realized that I could join the swim team for probably less than $80/season but couldn't take my beloved tennis lessons. But really, that's the only time my angsty feelings were reserved for tennis' elite/exclusive vibe. Most of the time I'm just angry with ESPN and the local channels for not showing enough of the stuff, LIVE!

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 03:40 PM

Hey rafa fan-
Devo song from 1978- their debut album, 'Are We Not Men?' was entitled 'Jocko Homo'. I've had it in my head for two days now!
Or Pete might have been describing a new variant of us humans- Jocko Homo v. Homo Sapiens, I don't know.

Holidays treating you any better today, bro?

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 03:42 PM

A: We are DEVO!

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 03:43 PM

sorry mmy, i'm a tool. Just saw your post. Going over to youtube (thanks)

I didn't even have the right song in my head:
what's the one that goes
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah-YEAH?

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 03:43 PM

momofan:

Yes and no.
When one first comes to the US one of the things that stuns is the degree of money and time spent on two or three sports. Football coaches at medium sized high schools will make substanially more than people with 2 or 3 graduate degrees. Even at college our entire schedule is built around the football and basketball seasons. Read the article on this site http://www.tennis.com/features/general/features.aspx?id=56774
which outlines some of the money problems of tennis as compared to football.

Or one might put it another way -- the community/taxpayer/everyone-else's-parents -- pay the way for football players.

Tennis players are funded by their own families or sponsors who do so personally.

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 03:45 PM

Well Left:

Cool, good to know that I am not the only person who reflexively references Devo :)

Posted by momofan 12/21/2006 at 03:53 PM

So now I guess the question is...how do we axe football programs in favor of tennis funding so that tennis loses its "exclusive" rep?
Answer: (We don't).

Posted by Viv 12/21/2006 at 03:54 PM

rafafan: I reckon mmy's first suggestion is accurate - jock as in 'athlete' man.

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 03:56 PM

which outlines some of the money problems of tennis as compared to football.

Yep my alma mater, Rutgers is losing it's tennis program.
It's a pity too. They've got like a billion courts. The good news is they can pave over them and build parking lots. Which is the second biggest problems that undergrads have over there.

Posted by 12/21/2006 at 04:03 PM

I think it makes sense that with each subsequent graduate degree one earns, his/her pay level should decrease rather than increase.

Keep Smiling.

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 04:04 PM

Can you imagine having >50 tennis players on a team? dear god there is no way to even start comparing football teams and tennis teams, in terms of resources, excepting playing surfaces.

The practice facilities would cover a small city... hmm, how big was the Rutgers tennis program, ptenisnet?

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 04:06 PM

Why does my name keep disappearing? I think my computer is breaking down. Steggy that 4.04pm was me!

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 04:09 PM

I have the least idea Well Left.
The billion was an exaggeration, but there is a fair few courts.
Football is more precious than anything else. Soccer was at one point when the likes of lalas were playing for them. But not anymore.
I dont think the tennis team was remarkably good (atleast when I was there) but they are going to be even worse now.

The practice facilities would cover a small city - Where did you get this from? Are you quoting?

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 04:10 PM

UGH--[semi-offtopic warning] speaking of schools not giving up football budgets...my old high school, where i coached debate for four years, found a way to dig up hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new football stadium, complete with jumbotron, giant locker room complex, press box, etc., but can't pay for the plane tickets for our kids who qualified for the national debate tournament--it was always up to the team to raise the money. talk about priorities being out of whack...

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 04:15 PM

This might be OT but here is a link for someone who is trying to save it.

http://www.saverutgerstennis.org/

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 04:15 PM

Nah, I was doing the real estate math in my head. 50 guys praticing concurrently, 10 singles, 15 doubles, say, requires 6 or so typical tennis barns. OK, so that's only a neighborhood, not a small city ;-))

I think that is part of the knee jerk reaction in New Brunswick. They even quoted 'tennis court usage of valuable real estate' as a reason to axe the team.

A shame, really.

Posted by rafa fan 12/21/2006 at 04:17 PM

Well left, my sentiment on the holidays has a history, but at least Im getting over my seasonal affective disorder.

I thought about the Devo song but still didnt make the connection with the blog topic. I will check the lyrics.

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 04:19 PM

What doesnt make sense is that they didnt cut the women's team. Just the men's. They can't wrangle a 100,000 out of ~35 million. Pathetic.

Posted by Well Left 12/21/2006 at 04:25 PM

Ironic that the football coach (I'm sure he's a good guy! I saw his interview the other night) salary is 6x the whole tennis team's budget and the tennis team has a cumulative GPA >3.2. I wander what the top 9 football players' aggregate GPA is.

They're keeping the women's team? So much for real estate usage- what's up with that?

Posted by Sanja 12/21/2006 at 04:28 PM

It's probably that title x bill - grants from the govt.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 04:38 PM

"Football coaches at medium sized high schools will make substanially more than people with 2 or 3 graduate degrees"

Agreed, mmy. It's depressing how out of whack things are, isn't it?

But who's the real culprit here? The high school adminstrators aren't throwing out those kind of dollars just because they like football. It's the market. Football and basketball are the money makers at almost every high school and college. Those two pay for every other sport going, both men's and women's. You think tennis programs are in danger now? Kill football and watch sports programs die by the dozens.

I'm not trying to defend our fixation with football. But the answer to the problem isn't magic. The tv dollars creating this madness don't happen by accident. We are the folks driving it. By "we", I mean those of us who watch football. Let's stop watching the games, then watch as the cascade begins...ad dollars plummet, ESPN's contract is a fraction next time around, university football revenues freefall everywhere, coaches salaries drop, and we're back to square one. But it's pretty much all in our control starting with the mighty tube.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 12/21/2006 at 04:38 PM

Sherlock -- thanks, feeling is mutual for the many great folks on this board.

But c'mon -- no question -- Devo was the only thing that jumped into my mind. (Another Eno-produced success story....)

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 04:39 PM

Well left:
"Ironic that the football coach (I'm sure he's a good guy! I saw his interview the other night) salary is 6x the whole tennis team's budget"

Ironic indeed. I have been involved for more than the last year trying to hire someone with exactly the right qualilifications for the job. The reason, I am told, that salaries aren't higher in the field I am hiring in is that there is a glut and thousands of people on the market. Meanwhile national job postings _might_ bring 10 applications. Most of whom can make more money outside academia. Meanwhile _each_ of the coaches makes a salary competitive with top researchers.

And many of the coaches I know of who make large salaries have no results to show.

What does pay the bill? The alums like to watch their teams and have their children play on their teams when it comes their turn to attend college.

It isn't just athletics versus non-atheltics. Football coaches often make more money than the entire budget of other sporting programs. Other coaches, who work just as hard if not harder, make peanuts.

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 04:40 PM

*shakes head*

OT uestion.. does anyone else's ears block up when a thunderstorm scoots in the area out of nowhere?

Posted by FoT 12/21/2006 at 04:43 PM

Steggy, we had that problem yesterday in this part of Texas - but now the sun is shinning bright! You guy get too much rain down there...

Posted by rafa fan 12/21/2006 at 04:49 PM

"God made man
But he used the monkey to do it
Apes in the plan
Were all here to prove it" (lyric extract from "jocko homo"

Hmmm these lyrics are interesting. I have often suspected that humans are actually monkeys that were tampered with, by extra-terrestrials.

Steggy, that is the sudden change in airpressure with the storm, its like driving up a mountain.

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 04:53 PM

FoT: You're up in the DFW area, right? This stuff came swinging in from over the gulf; blew through in about half an hour (they look like "thunderblobs" on radar).

Posted by FoT 12/21/2006 at 04:56 PM

Yep, I'm in Dallas and we had flooding in some areas yesterday. Now it looks dry as a dessert! Keep safe down there!

Posted by Rosangel 12/21/2006 at 05:00 PM

steggy: yes.

Picking up on an earlier conversation - I only boarded away from home for a couple of years. My parents visited me as much as possible. After that my parents moved to an area with much better day schools, so I was able to get a suitable place at one of those.

I was too young between ten and twelve to be getting drunk at boarding school:)

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 05:00 PM

Well Left
Are you from Jersey?
Your handle, btw, reminds me of cricket.

Posted by Rosangel 12/21/2006 at 05:02 PM

FoT: thanks for the above info on Roger - you recalled the details better than me. Wonder why? Have you read that bio of Roger, by the way?

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 05:13 PM

Sherlock

Well said

Ros:

I have to wait to Xmas to read it. It is sitting at 'his' place. 'He' read it and occassionally nodded meaningfully as he did so.

'He' can have a nasty sense of humour.

Posted by Ryan 12/21/2006 at 05:18 PM

A guy who coached a school to the HS football title 3 years in a row took a job coaching in oklahoma at some football powerhouse school. He quit after a year because he went 7-4. He was making nearly 6 figures--as a FOOTBALL COACH and "athletic director" at a high school. puh-leeze.

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 05:22 PM

Speaking of success rates,
is there any data around how many kids opt for a career in football vs how many of them are successful at it?
Is development in football even remotely the same as tennis?
And what does success mean for football anyway?

Posted by Lucy 12/21/2006 at 05:34 PM

As a kid, I was always threatened with boarding school when I was being particularly painful. So maybe I don't have the best vantage point on this. I think I would find it hard to send my kids away (to a boarding school or a tennis academy or whatever) but I know a lot of people who BEGGED their parents to send them to boarding school as kids, who still say they were the best years of their lives, etc. They didn't go as very young kids, though. Maybe that's where the difference is.

With regard to football versus tennis, how young do kids need to start playing American football if they're gonna make a career of it? I would've thought starting them any younger than about 12 or 13 would be unwise, and probably older than that is better - I know kids that age aren't allowed to play tackle football here. It's a high school thing, right?

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 05:44 PM

Probably a high school thing.
The thing is football is so entrenched in schools , the kind of sacrifice that needs to be made isn't about spending money to go to a special academy far away from home or anything like that. I suppose it is something else.

Posted by L. Rubin 12/21/2006 at 05:45 PM

Lucy,

I think they start to play in high school (I think).

Posted by creig bryan 12/21/2006 at 05:54 PM

Steggy:

Your passionate perspective continues to
bring me mucho reading pleasure. This is in reference
to your 3:45a Op-ed piece. Good & soulful.

And pressure drops during the onset of a storm
always affects my ears.

Keep Smiling

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 05:54 PM

mmy- I'm in national leadership for my university's alumni association and we're constantly at loggerheads with the athletic foundation of our uni. We have a top 5 NCAA football team and 85% of the donors to the athletic foundation never stepped foot on out uni's soils. But 90% of the alumni assoc's money comes from actual alums. Here's the rub we face: the chancellor is trying to get alumni association and the uni's foundation to turn over its donor list to the athletic foundation for fundraising purposes, yet, the athletic foundation doesn't have to give the alumni assocciation or uni foundation its donor lists.
We're focusing on students and they're focusing on cool stuff for athletes...

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 06:00 PM

creig: Thanks. :)

Here's the weird thing about my ears. This time, it was a small hail/thunderstorm that did it (I didn't get any hail but places about 6mi east of here did).

Meanwhile, Hurricane Rita didn't do squat. Go figure.

Posted by Lisa 12/21/2006 at 06:04 PM

OKAY STEGGY!!!!! Did you send it my way up in East Texas? We're having huge claps of thunder right now. And, my husband and I were supposed to be on a hay-ride/carolling thing tonight. dang it. (crossing my fingers behind my back)

Posted by Lorraine 12/21/2006 at 06:05 PM

hey guys, there are tackle football leagues for 5-year olds in some parts of the country.

Pop Warner is a VERY popular umbrella organization for peewee football. See their website where they post age and weight restrictions...http://www.popwarner.com/admin/structure.asp?lable=structure

It's frightening, really.

Posted by L. Rubin 12/21/2006 at 06:07 PM

Lorraine: peewee football--hee hee.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 06:07 PM

Lucy,

It's a junior high thing. Tackle started here last year, 6th grade. Although even then, calling it tackle is rather a stretch. It's pretty cute actually. :) There aren't exactly any Brian Urlacher's (sorry, famous NFL linebacker) out there steamrolling people.

And as Ptenisnet said, the sacrifice doesn't need to be made as it does in tennis. Basically, football players can play junior high (but they certainly don't have to) and then high school before even starting to think about making a career out of it. But if you're good enough to be able to have those thoughts, then you are good enough to get a scholarship to a top college. Once there, you've got four years of college paid for while you're playing the game. So if it doesn't work out, no problem, you're getting a free degree. Quite a deal, actually.

Although, of course, it's a complete meat market. One injury, etc., and there are plenty of guys to take your place. We could talk about this for hours. It's pretty sad really. Lots of kids who wouldn't have a prayer of going to college otherwise, but somehow get in because they can throw, catch, run, block, tackle. Funny about that. But if they get hurt, or don't measure up, well, see ya later and have a good life.

Posted by Lorraine 12/21/2006 at 06:07 PM

hey, Steggy, I bet because it came in so suddenly/fast, it was the rate of speed of the the drop in pressure, not the absolute drop itself...

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 06:08 PM

Lisa: It's heading towards you if you're anywhere west of College Station and north of the coast, heading due northeast. Nasty stuff; it dumped pea-sized sheet hail in town. On the bright side, this stuff is moving fast, so you'll probably make your hayride.

Posted by L. Rubin 12/21/2006 at 06:13 PM

Sherlock: Will the injured player still retain his scholarship?

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 06:13 PM

Although, of course, it's a complete meat market. One injury, etc., and there are plenty of guys to take your place. We could talk about this for hours. It's pretty sad really. Lots of kids who wouldn't have a prayer of going to college otherwise, but somehow get in because they can throw, catch, run, block, tackle. Funny about that. But if they get hurt, or don't measure up, well, see ya later and have a good life.

So that's a difference. Footballers actually have a motivation to go to college.

Posted by steggy 12/21/2006 at 06:14 PM

new post up..

Posted by Lucy 12/21/2006 at 06:18 PM

Yeah Sherlock, that's what I was thinking - there's a significant difference between deciding to focus on football at 15 and deciding to focus on tennis at 10.

Chalk me up as another person who finds the influence of athletics on academic culture alarming.

Posted by Sherlock 12/21/2006 at 06:29 PM

Liron, from guys that went on from my high school, and others that I've talked to, yes, they retain their scholarships. But, of course, if it's just a situation of not performing and falling into the coach's doghouse, then they will probably transfer to another school anyway.

"So that's a difference. Footballers actually have a motivation to go to college."

Good point, Ptenisnet. Even as farcical as it can be sometimes with some of these kids being in college, yes, they are there, so maybe that will help there in the long run. And nobody gets to the NFL but through this training ground of the minor leauges, uh, I mean college, so it's basically a requirement.

"Chalk me up as another person who finds the influence of athletics on academic culture alarming."

Agree wholeheartedly, Lucy.

Posted by Rosangel 12/21/2006 at 06:34 PM

Lucy: at six I would have found it very painful to be away from home. By ten it wasn't that I wanted to leave home, more that it was the only way to go to a good school away from people who would try to drag me down, and so I felt it was the only sensible choice. I won a suitable place (my parents had no money to fund it, so a scholarship was needed). My parents agreed to let me go away for those two years. Although it's not something I want to go into in any detail here, I had already the experience of being way ahead of my age group in terms of learning ability, so this meant that my schooling needs were different to the norm as I was a year ahead of my own age group (with mine being a birthday in late August, nearly two years ahead of some chidren in the same class). I don't want anyone reading this to take this or my earlier post as any kind of self-advertisement (I've previously been attacked on this very blog for even mentioning my academic record; for the record it means nothing to me now - those exams were a long time ago and everything I've taught myself since is more important), just my contribution to trying to understand why some talented and motivated younger junior tennis players could be prepared to spend time away from home at an academy. It may just be that their home environment cannot provide the learning experience they need, and that they have an exceptional hunger to play and improve their game. A parent can't plan for this or anticipate it. Responding to it may be the only right thing to do. I was, by any normal standards, an exceptional child in academic terms. No point pretending otherwise - without explaining this my perspective on gifted children looks extreme to some people. The only times that being academically exceptional me happy when I was young were when I was among others who had some sympathy for what that meant in terms of the goals I felt compelled to pursue.

Posted by mmy 12/21/2006 at 07:01 PM

Re:

"So that's a difference. Footballers actually have a motivation to go to college."

Having taught students who went on to play in the 'bigs' and students who didn't -- having taught at college where there was no chance to go to the bigs and at universities where it was expected

--I have opinions on motivation.

Believe me.

Posted by Lucy 12/21/2006 at 07:26 PM

Rosia: I understand that an experience such as yours would definitely inform your perspective on an issue like young tennis prodigies. I have a lot of sympathy for kids who feel intellectually stifled by their school environment, so I guess the same thing should apply for other natural gifts that aren't developed due to lack of opportunity. My objection to kids leaving home so early is largely an emotional reaction, I think. If my 10-year-old kid begged me to send her off to boarding school, I would probably do it (but hate every minute of it).

Posted by ptenisnet 12/21/2006 at 07:52 PM

Having taught students who went on to play in the 'bigs' and students who didn't -- having taught at college where there was no chance to go to the bigs and at universities where it was expected

My point was in comparison to tennis players for whom college is just an unnecessary bypass which they can get to at anytime if they are successful - a big gamble.

So the average football player in the best case makes it to the NFL,
and in the worst case gets a degree and by luck or through osmosis, some kind of knowledge.


Posted by creig bryan 12/21/2006 at 09:56 PM

Hats off to Nick B., for his ability to judge talent, without regard to the always alleged ulterior perspective.

More regards for his humility; the genteel letdown.

Life's outsiders can be so quickly judgmental, applying linear morals to alien situations, and then expecting tacit approval, when, clearly, they've strayed too far. Notwithstanding the ways of acquisition, (even moist ears), these opinions are still valuable treasures, serving to make the very point(s) they attempt to smote.

Genius groks structure in Sun Ra.

Keep Smiling

Posted by jhurwi 12/21/2006 at 09:59 PM

Perspective on being a parent of a child gifted in a particular area:
Not sports, since neither of my children ever had any aptitude in that field. But my daughter was academically gifted, and by the end of her sophomore year in high school, she had exhausted the opportunites available in our affluent suburban community and wanted to take up her father on his often-reiterated advice that she should go away to boarding school. I was reluctant, since she was young for her academic level (having skipped a year in elementary school), and more selfishly, because I would miss her so much. But it was the best decision she could have made--she would have gone crazy without intellectual challenge-- and she later unsuccessfully tried to talk her younger brother into going away to boarding school. In Britain, children of the upper classes used to go away to boarding school at the age of seven, and in rural France (not to mention many third world countries), continuing one's education beyond the elementary level usually means going away to a boarding school in a nearby town at some distance from one's native village.
Would I have been equally willing to see my daughter go away from home if she had been a gifted tennis player and it had been a question of going away to the Bolleteri's sports academy instead of to an academic boarding school? If she had been ten years old instead of fifteen? I might have been one of those overbearing tennis parents, considering how hard I took losses when I coached my daughter and my students in a national academic competition in my area of expertise. (Of course, in public you have to keep a smile on your face and say that the judges must have had good grounds for their decision, even if that's not how you feel inside!) I really wanted to have coached a national champion--not that it would not have added anything to my own professional career, but as a matter of personal pride. Luckily my daughter loved the competition, came in second in the nation one year, and learned skills which she was able to apply to her studies, so it wasn't a matter of forcing her to do something which I wanted her to achieve for my sake. Probably many tennis parents can say the same--commitment, time management, and setting priorities in your life are valuable lessons to learn even if you never become a professional.

As a teacher, I have also taught students who were training to become ballet dancers, which requires an incredible amount of physical training from a very young age and has just as low a chance of success than professional sports. Dancers essentially have an athlete's career--if they don't make it out of the corps de ballet by age 21, they will not succeed in in a professional career, and only a few of the biggest stars are able to continue their careers into their 30's. These dancers certainly did not lead "normal" lives in their childhood and teen years, but they had incredible concentration and determination and were exceptionally mature in many ways. I've ofen wondered--should I feel sorry for them, when they had the intense experience of total commitment and dedication to something they loved? That's something many people never experience in their lifetimes. And, like tennis players, they could always follow a teaching/coaching career in later life.

I don't think I would have moved my family to further a child's career in professional sports. Among other considerations, my husband's career required that he remain in certain geographic locations. I also doubt that I would have have sacrificed the opportunity to pursue my own career, though teachers are more flexible than many other occupations. Moreover, I am keenly aware of the cost which siblings pay for being subordinated to the advancement of the "gifted one." But I must say that I see why parents are willing to make the choices they do to send their children to Bolleteri's academy. Gifted children are not "normal" in many ways and you worry if you are denying them the opportunity to realize their gifts.

Posted by creig bryan 12/21/2006 at 10:02 PM

Rosangel wrote:

> ...The only times that being academically exceptional [made] me happy when I was young were when I was among others who had some sympathy for what that meant in terms of the goals I felt compelled to pursue...

Is this not what Roger might have felt, with respect to Tiger?
Or vice versa?

Keep Smiling

Posted by svelterogue 12/22/2006 at 03:30 AM

wouldn't it just be awesome if a movie was made with the setting in nick's academy? (i tried to type his surname but got lost in the double L's and T's, and then the name didn't look right anymore, and tooooo lazy to scroll up...) a really cool movie like those basketball, football, and hockey films i've seen over the years... slow mo effects a la john woo, cool music in the background a la csi...

this article got my imaginative juices working :)

Posted by Rosangel 12/22/2006 at 08:48 AM

jhurwi: Thanks for your post above. And an interesting parallel between dancers and young tennis players.

creig: I hadn't thought of it that way:-). Perhaps I should say (in case it sounds as though I had a miserable childhood) that although it was 'different' due to being taught among older children, it was always useful that I was keen on sports (not as any kind of prodigy, obviously). Being academically inclined doesn't make you that interesting to other children in many positive ways, especially if you're always ahead of them, but playing sports (including tennis) was something that helped me, especially as I got older. Sports may appear to have no inherent meaning, but they certainly provided a valuable method of communication (and a different challenge, one where I got used to failing as well as winning) for me. And teams sports provided a way of 'belonging' sometimes that wouldn't have otherwise occurred.

Posted by Sam 12/22/2006 at 09:56 AM

jhurwi: Enjoyed hearing your thoughts from the perspective of a parent who has been there. My thoughts are mostly along the lines of Sherlock, DM, and skip on this topic. As some have mentioned, it is a case by case thing, and what works for one family/child may not work for others.

Posted by creig bryan 12/22/2006 at 10:06 AM

Cliques and cults and clans and sects and other propagandic monikers are so often used to misrepresent groups defined by common interests. And yet any vocation (sounds religious) requires specialization, with the prerequisite of intense motivation. If you are called in this way, at any age, and you choose to accept, you will be self driven. Those who are not, or who choose not to accept the call, will, more often than not, fail to understand.

According to Pete, (in the subsequent post), Greer heard the call, and is, presently, responding. Bobby Fischer and Borg are two examples of ones who may have heard the call, responded for a certain time, and then, suddenly, hung up the phone.

When you hear the call, you want to share what you've heard, quite often with someone who will appreciate the sound, usually someone who also hears the call. This camaraderie is easily achieved (sometimes falsely) in group sports (and mob behavior). For the individual sportsman (or scholar), the isolation can be either salve or agony. Or some of both.

Keep Smiling

Posted by FoT 12/22/2006 at 03:08 PM

Hey Ros... to answer your question - not only have I read the bio, I have the DVD too! (an early Christmas present to myself!)...lol

Posted by lovestennis 12/22/2006 at 10:46 PM

I've seen that 6 year old.

One word.

Incredible.

That, my dear friends, is pure talent.

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