The sport of tennis and the United States Tennis Association each are in a very good place today. Because of our incomparable team of dedicated volunteers and staff, we’ve been able to make a real difference in our sport—and help our sport make a real difference in more people’s lives. In the past year, we’ve made genuine progress in helping tennis become the sport of opportunity for more people and, in doing so, we’ve helped our sport to grow and to thrive. We are reaching out to and attracting more diverse constituents. And we are appealing to a whole new generation of tennis players with our exciting 10 & Under Tennis initiatives. Yes, the place we’re in is a good place—but we’re not about to stay here.
Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change—and to be perfect is to change often.” There is much truth to that adage, and it is exactly the sort of thinking that should drive us all as we move forward in the pursuit of our mission to grow the game and enhance the lives of those involved in it. As a sport and as an association, we have accomplished much—but there is so much more to be done. In order to realize our greater goals, each one of us must embrace change.
I know that a lot of people are resistant to change; I realize that change can instill trepidation. But all of us must realize that nothing evolves and grows without change. And growth is, after all, our ultimate objective.
If we are truly committed to opening the doors to tennis for more people, we must always keep our minds open to new ways to do so. Our 10 and Under Tennis initiative is a perfect example of the way in which innovative thinking can help our sport to grow. By making the sport easier for kids to learn and to play, we’ve made it significantly more accessible and immediately more fun. We changed our approach—and made our sport more approachable. Today, there are more kids on more courts in more places and a rule change for 10-and-under competition that will ensure that our youngest players will get to play on properly-sized courts with right-sized equipment. That’s success that’s hard to argue with. The sport has grown because the sport has changed.
Sure, there always will be naysayers; there always will be those who refuse to accept change. But as an association, we need to move beyond those people because there is no place for shortsightedness in our long-term vision of success. Moreover, we need to put parochial concerns aside and focus on the greater good.
I can promise you that the USTA will continue to innovate and continue to examine all that we do and make changes where we see fit in an effort to do everything better.
The new Court 17 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was a huge hit in its inaugural year and is just a first step in what will be an ongoing process of enhancing and improving the facilities at the home of the US Open which, of course, funds all that we do at every level of the sport.
Globalization of our sport and the influx of new young players have prompted us to take a hard look at our junior competition structure. The USTA is committed to making junior competition more efficient, effective, and affordable for both those players already in the system as well as the countless new prospective players that the USTA anticipates joining the pipeline soon thanks to our 10 and Under Tennis initiative.
USTA League is changing its structure so that, beginning in 2013, the world’s largest recreational tennis league will be more fair and more fun for its hundreds of thousands of competitors.
These are just a few examples of the kind of changes we need to make. Going forward, there will undoubtedly be more. The importance of change in our sport cannot be overstated, because tennis is a sport that can change lives. Indeed, all of us involved in this association are caretakers of a powerful sport that is synonymous with health, hope and happiness. If we want to continue to grow as a sport and grow our association, we have to make more people aware of the bounty of benefits that go hand-in-hand with this great game. We will have to really work at it, and we will have to change our thinking—and ourselves—when necessary. All of us need to realize that things don’t get better by chance—they only get better by change.
As a sport and as an association we’re in a good place today. Through change, we’ll be in a better place tomorrow. Thanks for your continued support.
Chairman of the Board and President