Warning - Contains sarcasm and big words


USTA Southern is a truly pathetic organization rotting from within. I've always wondered about their rationale for playing league matches and State Tournaments on hard courts, then switching to clay courts for Sectionals. Did they not know the difference ? Or were they just that dumb ?

After my recent interaction with USTA Southern's tournament director for USTA Leagues, I now know the answer. They really are that dumb. And they worse, they don't care.

At last years Sectionals, I talked to a good number of players. Most would have preferred hard courts. Two teams didn't even have clay courts available in their cities and were seeing clay courts for the first time at Sectionals. Yeah, that's fair.

USTA Southern has no appreciation at all for the time and money spent by players who attend USTA Tournaments. When I added up my costs for this year, I wonder why I ever played USTA Tennis.

Costs

My USTA Costs for 2018.
USTA Annual Membership$44
GKTA Membership$16
League Fees (8)*$94
   - court fees (rain)$32
State Tournaments (6)**$210
   - State Travel (3)$1,500
Sectionals (2)$90
   - Sectional Travel (2)$1,200
Total$3,186
29 matches played$110/match
 
* Two Leagues had NO matches and NO Refunds
** Two State Tournaments had matches at same time and NO Refunds

I missed the first Sectional Tournament I qualified for in 2018. It was scheduled to start on a Friday morning in Asheville, NC (a two hour drive). About 48 hours before the start of the tournament, we get word USTA Southern has canceled the tournament due to an Atlantic Storm. Ok, so I cancel all my reservations and pet sitter. Then about 8 hours later, Wednesday evening, they reschedule the tournament for Columbus, GA (a 5 1/2 hour drive). Too late now to call the pet sitter or reschedule Thursdays activities. So I missed the tournament, along with another of my teammates, and three other complete teams. Such poor planning and disregard for the players that earned the right to compete seems to be the norm at USTA Southern.

After three screwed up Sectional Tournaments in 2018, I thought, maybe, the powers that be at USTA Southern might not be aware of the issues at the tournaments. So I wrote them the following letter about the last two Sectional Tournaments I attended:
 

Original Letter

To whomever can fix the problems with USTA League tennis,

Each year, as we form teams for USTA leagues, I find an increasing number of tennis players who want nothing to do with USTA. They all have had bad experiences with USTA tournaments in the past. So much so that they are still bitter about their experiences years later.

I have plenty of personal experiences from past tournaments (27 of them), some good, some not so good. The last two sectional tournaments I attended this year perfectly illustrate how not to run a tournament, assuming the goal is not to alienate the tennis community.

The 65+ 7.0 mixed doubles in Little Rock, Arkansas - There were six teams. Instead of playing a normal round robin and playing each team once, the tournament schedule had us playing 4 of the 5 other teams. Besides being illogical, the schedule did not mention there would be a final match on Sunday between the top two teams. As a result, players that flew to the tournament had flights out on Saturday after the last scheduled match, missing the finals.

This miscommunation was a sign of things to come. The courts weren't playable for the first match at 8:30 due to rain the night before. No one from the USTA tournament staff was at the courts and were unreachable for the next half hour. When finally reached, they said they would start looking for other courts in another half hour. At 11:30, in a different part of town, we finally started. This tournament was top notch in previous years. Unfortunately, this years tournament director learned nothing from her predecessor.

The 65+ 3.5 men's tournament in Hilton Head, SC - No tennis tournament should ever be held in Hilton Head as they have no realistic backup plan for rain.

Tournament schedule called for two matches on Thursday, one on Friday, one on Saturday. We've come to expect some sort of condensed tennis (pro set, 4 game sets, no-ad, flip a coin) that no one likes when it rains. Because the weather forecast predicted rain on Saturday, they had us play no-ad tennis on Thursday and Friday, both perfectly clear days.

The warped rationale given for the no-ad tennis on the two clear days was to speed up the tournament and play Saturdays match on Friday evening. There were lots of empty courts available so no-ad tennis wasn't necessary, just would have cost them a little more for extra courts. They said it was fair to everyone. It's definitely not. It is equally unfair to everyone. As players, we spent over $600 apiece in travel & lodging alone. Players were all shortchanged. We came to play tennis, not the bastardized version of the day.

The people running this tournament were so inept, they couldn't even get the t-shirt sizes right. Completely ignoring the sizes on the registration forms, they expected everyone given the wrong size to just find someone to trade with. Amazingly, when I questioned them, the three USTA representatives at the table Thursday night denied any responsibility and blamed our team captain for their incompentence. Still not sure if they were deliberately lying to me, or just that dumb. No other tournament I've been to has so badly botched such a simple task.

Overall theme to most of the below par tournaments I've been to is that the USTA staff has no appreciation for the cost or time spent by the players to attend the tournament. Their main concern seems to be, just get it over with.

As a direct result of the recent USTA Hilton Head experience, several of our team members have joined the ever growing list of no more USTA leagues. Most disenchanted players don't bother with feedback, as they expect it will be ignored (this certainly seems to be the case with the occassional end of tournament surveys), and just quit. I'm providing USTA feedback in the hopes USTA fixes these problems before I decide it's not worth it and quit too.
 


So what was the USTA Southern reaction to my letter ?

A vindictive grievance filed against me from an unaccomplished and fundamentally dishonest tournament director trying to cover his ass !!!

Up to this point, I had tried not to let this get personal. No more.

In his 'grievance', the King of Bastardized Tennis (KOBT) makes a feeble attempt to deny the points made in my letter, is deeply offended that anyone would question his poor judgment, motives or use words he doesn't understand, and fabricates events that took place at our encounter when I tried to get the correct T-Shirt size.

Bastardized Tennis

Bastardized Tennis - Any deviation from standard scoring. Normally used in tournaments to shorten matches when play is moved indoors due to rain and there are time constraints preventing all scheduled matches from being completed (usually due to poor planning). Common forms of bastardized tennis include 8 game pro sets, 4 game sets, no-ad tennis, and flipping a coin.

Sadly, USTA Southern characterizes bastardized tennis as 'generally accepted scoring methods'. They're not accepted. They're forced on us. No one goes to a tennis tournament intending to play bastardized tennis.

Bastardized tennis could largely be avoided with a little planning. Since USTA Southern can't figure it out, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don't pick a tournament location without adequate indoor courts available in case of rain.

  2. Make tournaments smaller if necessary to meet requirement number 1. No reason multiple tournaments need to be on same weekend.

Unfortunately, The King of Bastardized Tennis who works as tournament director at USTA Southern seems to have embraced bastardized tennis as his new standard, recently changing the format of a Sectional Tournament to bastardized tennis on outdoor courts on perfectly clear days.

(From the dictionary - Bastardized - adjective - (of a version of something) lower in quality or value than the original form).
 
Wasn't hard to see the fix was it. So I decided to see if any adults were in the loop, and replied:
 

Rebuttal Letter

This is quite a surprise to me. I initially wrote to USTA about two of the worst tournaments I had been to because I sincerely hoped the feedback would help improve future tournaments by not repeating the same mistakes. I hoped my feedback would be taken seriously, but also expected it would probably be ignored. I never expected such a petty, vindictive reaction.

I find the grievance filed against me by USTA Southern's Chris Walling laughable. If anything, we should all be filing grievances against Chris Walling for screwing up the Sectional Tournament in such a spectacular fashion. Not an insult, just a fact. The Hilton Head tournament was poorly run and I gave specific examples in my letter. The excuses given by Chris Walling in his rebuttal remind me of the teenager who just wrecked the family car, steadfastly insisting his accident was the telephone poles fault.

As for the grievance itself, his characterization of my behavior is greatly exaggerated and self serving. For example, at no time did I "slam my hands on the counter" or even touch the counter for that matter. And I did not say "he bastardized the tournament". I didn't even know who he was at the time.

I also don't scream. I was trying to get the correct size T-Shirt. The ladies at the USTA table were not helpful and had nothing but excuses to offer. Chris Walling then steps in, repeating what's already been said, as if that somehow settles it. At this point, I commented "this was the worst tournament I'd been to". Not an insult, just a fact. He instantly became hostile and demanded to know why I thought it was the worst tournament. I told him "There is no backup plan for rain and we had to play bastardized tennis on two perfectly clear days". Again, not an insult, just a fact.

Apparently, he took exception to my choice of words and became even more belligerent. Perhaps he would not have overreacted if he knew what the word actually meant (From the dictionary - Bastardized - adjective - (of a version of something) lower in quality or value than the original form). Clearly pro sets, 4 game sets and no-ad tennis all fit the definition. Not an insult, just a fact.

He then told me his backup plan for the predicted rain was to speed up the tournament by playing no-ad tennis. Yet in his rebuttal to my letter, Chris Walling states "At no point was the no-ad used to 'speed up' the tournament". Really ? Which is it ? Can't have it both ways.

Don't recall what else was said, but clearly this was going nowhere, and it was clear they could care less about giving me the wrong size t-shirt, so I left.

In his rebuttal to my letter, he tries again to justify the bastardized tennis, this time by complaining about the additional expenses incurred for lighted courts in the evening. Note our team did not play in the evening or under the lights.

There is still no excuse for playing bastardized (no-ad) tennis on clear days. It should only be implemented when it's actually raining and play has been moved to indoor courts. No one likes it and it wasn't necessary. Period.

While Chris Walling may find my comments insulting/disrespectful, the truth doesn't care about his feelings. I firmly believe no tournament should be held at Hilton Head because they have no realistic backup plan for rain. Again, not an insult, just a fact. In his rebuttal, he states rather childishly "Players are not required to participate in sectionals...". USTA picked that site for our sectional tournament, we had no input. Our team earned the right to compete. Proving yet again, No appreciation at all for the players.

Contrary to Chris Walling's accusation, I don't blame or disrespect the volunteers or staff for the tournament director's failings. The tournament directors decisions adversely affected us all. All players were shortchanged by the unnecessary no-ad tennis. Again, not an insult, just a fact. If he's really had the training and experience he claims, it wasn't on display. Again, not an insult, just a fact.

In his grievance against me, Chris Walling suggests next time I have a concern, to take it up with tournament staff. I actually did try to address my concerns to the tournament staff. He was not interested in feedback, as previously noted. As I said before, they have no appreciation for the time and money spent by players to attend the tournament. Their main concern seems to be to just get it over with. If that's not the case, the perception certainly is.

The only behavior I encountered that was disrespectful and out of line was from Chris Walling. His hostile behavior toward me was uncalled for and reflects poorly on USTA. I did not reference his behavior in my original letter because I didn't know who he was.

I sent my original letter because it was the worst tournament I've been to. Again, not an insult, just a fact. That falls on the tournament director, who apparently still refuses to take any responsibility. Bringing attention to what everyone knows and is talking about shouldn't be considered insulting or disrespectful. I took the time to address major issues in two sectional tournaments, and Chris Walling takes it as a personal insult. And he files a frivolous grievance. That's personally offensive and tells you all you need to know about Chris Walling.

Please focus on improving the reputation of USTA leagues and fix the issues I've raised about both of the recent sectionals, and dismiss this silly CYA vendetta.

 

No adult supervision.

I made the mistake early on in this farce in acknowledging I didn't know anyone that was around at the USTA desk, so I'm without witnesses, leaving the KOBT free to coach a couple of his cronies into writing some lame letters supporting his fabricated version of events. One was from a guy (tournament referee, no less) who was probably not even there (KOBT was the only male in sight). This guy claimed to have been hiding in the shadows unseen (at night, during the womens tournament, yeah that's not creepy), but somehow close enough to hear very selective parts of the conversation (odd how selective his hearing was). Half the creepy guys moronic rant consisted of what he fantasized he would do in a hypothetical on-court situation that not only did not happen, but was never even alleged to have happened. Another rotten apple in the USTA Southern barrel.

So once again, I pointed out this was really about two of the worst Sectional Tournaments I'd been to and I was trying to bring attention the problems in the hope they wouldn't be repeated. Turns out KOBT isn't man enough to admit his mistakes, so he filed a frivolous grievance. This was pretty obvious since the grievance wasn't filed until after my original letter was received, though he denies it. He also now denies the bastardized tennis was used to speed up the tournament. So why again did we play bastardized tennis ? My original letter was also referenced heavily in the grievance.


End result was the grievance committee played office politics and suspended me from USTA for a year. They simply parroted the KOBT's fairy tale hook, line and sinker. They couldn't even get simple facts straight, such as when the matches were played. What a joke.

1. Then they further embarrassed themselves by having the audacity to try to justify their decision to suspend me because they felt I had no remorse. Really ? For what exactly ? Using multi-sylable words like 'bastardized' ?

2. And I dared question the veracity of the other 'witness statements'. They forget. I was there.

3. And I don't take this seriously. Of course not. But clearly they didn't either or they would have reached a different conclusion.

So I appealed.

Appeal

I am appealing this decision. I am disappointed the grievance committee played office politics and did nothing more than rubber stamp Chris Walling's fabricated version of events. Their 'findings of fact' prove that.

Again, I did not, at any time, 'slam my hands on the tournament desk', or even touch the desk for that matter. Note that none of the 'witnesses' made that claim in their statements. It did not happen, yet the committee accepts this as a 'fact'.

The claim that Walling never became hostile or belligerent towards me is another fabrication. Walling became immediately hostile when I stated this was the worst tournament I had been to. His behavior is what provoked the words exchanged, which occurred after he interjected himself into the conversation. To pretend that he was somehow not a part of this is absurd.

As for the tournament referee, Kenny Martin's statement, it is completely irrelevant. Other than lurking in the shadows unseen by anyone, and missing most of what occurred by his own admission, the bulk of his statement is about what he would do to me in a hypothetical on-court situation that not only did not occur, it was never even alleged to have occurred. And this is a supposed to be a 'finding of fact' ?

The grievance committee is also in error about the tournament play. All our scheduled round robin matches were played on schedule both Thursday and Friday. There was no need for bastardized tennis on those perfectly clear days. No matches were played in the evening. (There was a women's tournament going on at the same time that played in the evening, but the men's tournament did not).

I don't believe in political correctness, so my choice of words are for accuracy, and I don't care if some people might be 'offended'. I did indeed refer to no-ad tennis as bastardized tennis. Which it is, along with pro sets and 4 set tennis. I even provided a definition for clarification. The committee calls them 'generally accepted scoring methods'. They're not accepted. They're forced on us when we have time constraints due to rain delays. There was no rain delay Thursday or Friday and no need for bastardized tennis. The grievance committee may have found an obscure rule allowing the tournament director to change the format to bastardized tennis on clear days, but that doesn't make it right.

I've talked to at least 100 tennis players since this tournament disaster, including current and former tournament referees, and not one thought it was the right call. I share the view that arbitrarily changing the tournament format after the participants have already spent a great deal of time and money to attend a tennis tournament is borderline fraud.

And yes, I do question veracity of the other 'witness statements'. And with good reason - I was there.

The committee stated I have no remorse. Exactly what should I be remorseful for ? Attempting to point out major failings of two sectional tournaments in the hope the problems might get fixed. But judging by the reaction I've received, USTA Leagues is in denial and doesn't seem to care. So it was a waste of my time.

The end result was a vindictive grievance from an unaccomplished and fundamentally dishonest tournament director trying to cover his blunders and poor planning. There was no back-up plan for rain, and panic set in when rain was forecast for Saturday. He files his grievance after receiving my e-mail to USTA Southern, then falsely claims the grievance was not in retaliation to my e-mail addressing the worst tournament I've been to. Since the dates clearly prove otherwise. he then falsely claims that was because he didn't know who I was before then, even though I gave my name when I tried to get the correct T-Shirt size. He also falsely claimed in his rebuttal to my e-mail "At no point was the no-ad used to 'speed up' the tournament", yet everyone was told they were changing the format to no-ad to speed up the tournament. And he confirmed no-ad was used to speed up the tournament again on the evening in question, and now denies it.

I am remorseful that I didn't get T-Shirt size I ordered. Or should I have just accepted the USTA staff denial of responsibility and accept their assertion that it was first 'the team captains fault', then 'my fault' for trying to get the size I ordered.

My only regret is allowing Walling's incompetence and hostile behavior to provoke me into language often heard on the courts.

The committee is incorrect in it's conclusion. I did not verbally abuse anyone. My comments were not directed at any one person, just the poorly run tournament. I disagreed with them. And Walling's ego couldn't handle it.

I am surprised by the deceit on display by Walling in a frivolous attempt to justify his role in the worst tournament I've ever been to. Clearly the rules on sportsmanship and civility don't apply to tournament directors or referees.

The committee is correct in that I don't take this farce seriously. I am however, quite annoyed at being slandered, so I am appealing this ruling.

 

As expected, the appeals committee was just another rubber stamp. No one from the grievance committee or the appeals committee ever even bothered to contact me.

No one at USTA Southern to my knowledge, cares about how badly the tournaments have been run. For them, it's just about the money. The tournament disasters I tried to share with them were ignored.

The grievance committee gave a half-ass excuse for bastardized tennis on clear days, and no one would even address the scheduling screw ups in Arkansas or the lack of a backup plan for rain at either tournament. As I stated in my original letter, there are ever increasing numbers of Tennis players that want nothing to do with USTA. None were good experiences. I could fill a book with stories from players just at the local racquet club. It's that bad.

I'm still annoyed at this farce, particularly the dishonesty of the KOBT, so I thought I'd share my experience. I know many other experiences are far worse. I've heard many of them. But on the bright side, I'll save a lot of money by not playing USTA Tennis.