USTA ANNOUNCES NEW
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT LEADERSHIP
Ashley Marshall | October 12, 2018
The USTA has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting American junior, college and professional players with the announcement of a unified coaching leadership in its Player Development department.
Former head of women’s tennis Ola Malmqvist has been promoted to director of coaching, while Kent Kinnear and Kathy Rinaldi will take over as head of men’s and women’s tennis, respectively.
The changes are aimed at improving the development of men’s and women’s players throughout the entire USTA Player Development pathway, providing a cohesive approach and one shared philosophy from the juniors all the way to the professional game.
“Ola, Kent and Kathy represent the knowledge, commitment and leadership that we need at this time to ensure that we continue to move, driven by a culture of excellence, towards our goal of dominating the global game with consistent success at Grand Slams and in Davis Cup and Fed Cup,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman.ADVERTISEMENT
“We could not hope to have three more qualified individuals in these important leadership roles, and their accomplishments, knowledge and credibility in the tennis community give us a unique opportunity to achieve our goals.”
Malmqvist will assume an oversight position previously held by Jose Higueras, who transitioned into a consultant coaching role with USTA Player Development in 2017. With Higueras’ guidance, Malmqvist will focus on continuing to develop and improve the USTA’s philosophy for player development and its alignment with private-sector coaches throughout the country.
“We have a great structure and we work really well with the private sector and the private-sector coaches and I think we’re going to have a lot of top players and hopefully a lot of great players,” said Malmqvist.
Kinnear and Rinaldi will now lead and manage the USTA’s men’s and women’s coaching staffs and programming based at the USTA’s three national training centers in Orlando; Carson, Calif.; and New York, ensuring that all teaching, training, coaching and programming on both sides is aligned with Player Development’s philosophy.
Additionally, they’ll each help oversee the allocation of resources to ensure optimal support for American junior, college and pro players, as well as manage relationships with America’s top pro players and their teams in order to maximize every American player’s potential.
“It’s a philosophy we hope unifies the entire country,” Blackman said. “The principles dictate the way we teach, train and coach the game, and it’s something that Kathy, Ola and Kent have been a part of administering [for] the past nine years. It also speaks to the overall process of how we work together as a team, how we communicate with players, and how we communicate with the private sector.
“It gives us the same framework for making decisions across the board so that there’s consistency with that decision making.”
Rinaldi will continue in her role as U.S. Fed Cup captain. Her successor as Team USA women’s lead national coach and Kinnear’s as director of player identification and development will be announced at a later date.
Malmqvist has been the USTA’s head of women’s tennis since the job was created in 2008, when there were only five Americans in the year-end WTA Top 100. There are now 14 American women in the Top 100 of the latest WTA rankings, and American girls have won five of the last nine junior Grand Slam singles titles.
Kinnear has been with USTA Player Development full-time since 2007, beginning as men’s national coach before taking his current position in 2012. He feels that experience of working at the grass-roots level with junior players and private-sector coaches has given him a perfect foundation for his expanded role.
“Being down at the base of the pyramid, the relationship working closely with the 17 USTA sections, working with the Coaches' Commission and the private sector coaches and putting together all these camps that build up the base of players, it’s been really exciting to see that gain more and more momentum,” Kinnear said.
“The goal is to unify and be a team both on the men’s and women’s side. That will be one of the big things, that we’re one team moving forward and working hard together and making each other better. Also working closely and side-by-side with the private sector coaches; we have so many private-sector coaches out across the country and they’ve been great partners.
Rinaldi, now in her second year as Fed Cup captain, has led the U.S. team to its second consecutive final, after captaining the U.S. to its first Fed Cup title in 17 years last year. Rinaldi joined the USTA as a national coach in 2008 and was elevated to the Team USA lead position when it was created in 2016.
“The last 10 years at the USTA have been incredible,” said Rinaldi. “It’s been a lot of hard work with the entire team here and I think moving forward it’s an exciting time to be a part of it. I’m really looking forward to the new challenge and also remaining Fed Cup captain and still working closely with Ola and Kent.
“To continue developing players at a young age and bringing them up the pipeline, I think that’s always the challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”
That challenge has recently been made a little more streamlined with the continued growth of the revolutionary USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Fla., which will have been open two years in January.
“The huge benefit of having this campus and this facility and everything that we need is that we can be so much more inclusive than we were able to be in the past,” Blackman said of the USTA National Campus, which boasts 100 courts — including hard courts plus red and green clay — a state-of-the-art fitness center, sports medicine professionals and temporary lodging.
“We can have a junior camp, a collegiate camp and a pro camp going on at the same time. We can have girls and boys training at the same time as men and women and, most importantly, some of those top pros are able to bring in their own teams. That really goes a long way in building trust and relationships when they know they can come with their own coach or own physio and still be a part of what we’re doing.”
Blackman said success will be measured both in terms of outcome-based metrics — players in the Top 10, 20, 50 and 100; 21-and-under players in the Top 300; 23-and-under players in the Top 200; and ITF-ranked juniors — and, just as importantly, the spread of one unified culture and training philosophy.
“The real measure of our success would be in having a unified culture, first with our national coaches and then throughout the country with our best private-sector coaches,” Blackman said.
“It was an opportunity to improve the leadership structure and put three of our best leaders in those very important roles. It’s very exciting and a big part of it for me is that Kathy, Ola and Kent have been with Player Development from the beginning of this project. It’s ideal that we have all three of them in those leadership roles and we’re in a position now to just continue to build on the momentum but also improve on everything we’re doing throughout the pathway.”