Thursday, October 28, 2021

Water cooler talk: The battle rages on between Wayne Bryan & Patrick McEnroe


Doug Browne

I finally got a few predictions right! Andy Murray won both the Olympic Gold Medal and the US Open Men’s Singles Title! I figured, sooner or later, that he could get that proverbial monkey off his back and display his real ability and win some big championships. It clearly proves that, if a determined hard-working athlete sticks to the plan and is able to maintain his confidence, it is only a matter of time when his fortunes change.

Does Murray’s recent success mean that he is the favorite to win the Australian Open in January? Or, will Rafa Nadal get healthy and come back with a vengeance? Stay tuned.

For the past several years the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Junior Development program, under the guidance of Patrick McEnroe, Jose Higueras and Jay Berger, has been heavily criticized for its failure to produce any new teenage stars.

Thanks to social media, countless Facebook tennis professionals have voiced their opinions about the USTA PD (player development) and their lack of a solid plan to develop new stars as Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, the Williams sisters, and others, leave the game in the near future.

The consensus among many tennis pros is that Patrick McEnroe is a part-time participant as he is so busy with his television commitments and other endeavors. Moreover, Higueras and Berger simply do not have a solid winning blueprint on coaching junior tennis players.

Here are a few excerpts from two of the leading pros in the sport of tennis: Wayne Bryan, father of twins Bob and Mike, and former top ATP Tour star, Tim Mayotte. Each person has had a direct link to the Tour, and the USTA PD staff. In particular, Patrick McEnroe hired his old friend, Tim Mayotte to work for the new Player Development Team.

Here is Tim Mayotte’s assessment after working for the PD: “One big issue and an expression of the pervading arrogance is that the bosses there at the USTA PD have no willingness or ability to deeply discuss ideas and methods.

“They want to produce great, strong independent players who can be flexible and adjust and yet they (the bosses) do not display any of these qualities. We have cultural dissonance of the highest and most destructive order going on there. Jose, and to a tragic level, Patrick feel somehow by virtue of their celebrity that their “magic” will rub off on people they control.

What they are too lost to see is the word “development” in PD. As you know so well building, healthy individuals means walking thru the trenches with them and helping them analyze the moral, mental, and emotional choices they (and the parents) have to make and develop a healthy strong person in the process. Hard to do when you are dictating from a broadcast booth and a board room.”

If Mayotte’s opinion does not splash very cold water in Mr. McEnroe’s face, nothing ever will! Now, Wayne Bryan had written a famous email to a few friends about his numerous criticisms concerning the USTA and it went viral. So, Patrick McEnroe felt obliged to respond and here is a brief dialogue between the two men. PM (Patrick McEnroe):

“But contrary to what Mr. Bryan believes, USTA Player Development isn’t in the “cherry-picking” business. We’re in the business of helping the best young players get better by providing a controlled environment in which they will have the best chance of developing. Coach B (Wayne Bryan): Yeah, yeah. I’ve been hearing that for a real long time now. You are, in fact, in the cherry pickin’ business. Why not just go out and create players from age 4 and 5 and run ‘em on up the flag pole then? No, you all want to take the cream of the crop and only work with them in the proverbial eleventh hour.”

One of the many items that anger so many professionals is the incredible and inflatable salaries handed out to McEnroe and his cronies. It is alleged that part-time boss McEnroe is paid 1.5 million dollars and Higueras commands at least 850 thousand and Berger over the half-million dollar mark. Furthermore, most of the on-court PD coaches earn at least $125,000 and this does not include their generous expense accounts.

Wayne Bryan’s contention is that most club professionals in the private sector do not earn these ridiculously high salaries. If you are a tennis nut like me, I urge all readers to probe the Internet and read the entire letters written by Wayne Bryan, Tim Mayotte and Patrick McEnroe! It is eye-opening, and will give one a far better perspective on what is going on with the USTA and their role in the tennis world.

Another controversial USTA agenda involves the 10 and under initiative. Talk about radical changes. Facilities are building smaller tennis courts throughout the country and encouraging the use of different balls, namely green balls that are less pressurized. What is the big gripe? Bryan and many others don’t want every change to be mandated and now the 10 and under tournament game is 180 degrees different.

Without a doubt, I find myself right in the middle of this current battle; baseball offers T-Ball, basketball allows 8-foot tall hoops, football uses smaller fields and smaller balls, you get the drift. Bottom line: One of the many reasons so many youngsters quit tennis is due to this overall difficulty of the game.

If more and more kids try tennis and thus do better because it is indeed easier, everyone wins. Now, if the downside is that a really talented kid, Matt Browne (our son began early and was rather talented and successful at ages 9 & 10) must play with ‘green balls’ he may be turned off and lose his love for the game. Frankly, I don’t think this new idea is a deal-breaker; if we get more participants and they continue to play tennis, it is impossible to criticize.

On a very positive note, the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association) has appointed a new CEO – Mr. John Embree,(no relation to Island tennis star, Lauren Embree) who will start his new campaign effective next month.

Mr. Embree has been the top-dog at Prince and Balle de Match as well as the number two man at Wilson Sporting Goods where he also played an active role with the USTA.

I’ve known John for over two decades and he will add passion, inclusiveness, fresh ideas and an overall dynamic presence to this job. Island USPTA members like myself, Leslie Browne, Tad Connerton and Island Club tennis director, Rick Calton are excited about John’s appointment and we will support him every step of the way.

Finally, long-time Naples pro and now former Port Royal Tennis Director, Joe Obidiegwu has taken a prestigious academic teaching position in Europe and will start his new role in the coming months. A couple years back, Joe was our daughter, Mallori’s tennis coach and he was instrumental in her love of the game. We wish Joe much success with his new endeavor.

Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year.  Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.


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