Smith, Gordon - 2012 head shot
© Fred Mullane/camerawork usa
10 and Under Tennis has permeated all levels of the USTA, from how we think about and view tennis to how we operate as an organization. It is an unprecedented initiative for our association and for the sport, changing the way tennis is played—and taught—throughout the United States. The launch has been a tremendous success—a success validated on January 1 of this year with the implementation of a rule change that makes shorter courts, smaller and lighter racquets, and slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls the norm for all USTA- and ITF-sanctioned tournaments for kids 10 and under. And it is a success that is evident off the court as well as on it, as you can witness when you walk into a sporting goods store and see right-sized kids’ equipment lined up next to the adult racquets and yellow balls.
Such accomplishments are a testament to all the volunteers and staff of the USTA who have worked so hard to make 10 and Under Tennis an integral—and accepted—part of the tennis world and lexicon. And I believe in the coming years we will all see how that time and effort pays off in terms of increased participation and interest in the sport as well as in an increased number of fans and a new generation of world-class players.
Moreover, in addition to standing on their own merits, the achievements of 10 and Under Tennis are indicative of an equally significant accomplishment: They speak to how we’ve grown and developed as an organization over the last few years.
A central tenet of 10 and Under Tennis is that it can be played anywhere at any time. You do not need a formal tennis court or have to join a club to have access to our grand game; all you need is a racquet, some type of ball and a flat surface where you can draw lines, use a piece of string as a net and, just like that, you’re playing tennis. It is that kind of thinking that is breaking down the walls to our sport, making tennis accessible to all people in the United States—a changing demographic that skews younger and more diverse than ever before. Tennis is an amazing sport populated by amazing people. It is not reserved for anyone in particular or accessible only to small segment of the population. It is the sport for everyone, and 10 and Under Tennis is one of the bridges we’re constructing to cross all such perceived divides.
The evolution of 10 and Under Tennis also highlights the very best in how we’ve evolved as an organization. The culture of the USTA staff has changed, as has the ways in which we do business. Three years ago we introduced the concept of working cross-functionally to become a high-performance organization. 10 and Under Tennis was one of our early proving grounds, with multiple cross-functional teams—groups of different people from different departments all pooling their collective resources and talents to work together toward a common cause—assembling to launch all the elements of 10 and Under Tennis that we now see coming together with such unrivaled success.
In 2012, we as an organization will continue to work to reinforce our gains as a high-performing organization, cementing our organization’s development and growth as we look to promote and develop the growth of tennis in the coming years and decades. In 10 and Under Tennis, we have a model to follow. And in our volunteers and staff, we have everything we need to reach such great heights.
Gordon A. Smith
Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, USTA