I have a guest post from a man I am honored to call a friend and mentor, Coach Chuck Kriese.
With all the changes going on to the scoring system in collegiate and the junior tennis this is a MUST read. We need to think long and hard about how changing the scoring system changes the game of tennis itself, and the lasting impact those changes will have.
For 141 years, the consistent barometer for marking levels of playing abilities, determining the rites-of-passage to new levels and the measuring of every competitor’s achievement has been the fascinating and challenging scoring system of tennis. Traditional Tennis Scoring is now under assault as there is an attempt to change or abbreviate it at nearly every level. The stated motive by the ITA and the USTA has been to attract more participation and the building of larger fan-bases at collegiate events.
As the 10-pt Tie-Breaker is now being used regularly instead of a learning-packed 3rd set for matches in junior tennis, No-ad Tennis is being bled into our youngster’s events as well. In the college ranks, strong opposition by coaches and players was not enough to prevent the ITA from finally forcing it through. Regardless of an ugly 4-year battle, the ITA made it a rule anyway for 2016. Players and coaches complained in unison, but the end result was for coaches to do-it-or-else. Multiple junior events are following suit this year with a narrative by USTA that suspiciously states, “Our kids need to play no-ad to get ready for college tennis.” REALLY!!! It is time to take notice!
The unintended consequences of such changes to the fundamental structure of tennis does much greater harm than is noticed on the surface. Youngsters and Collegians are getting skewed and random results. More harmful is that they don’t learn the depths of the game. Seemingly, the path is being paved for abbreviated tennis to go into other levels of tennis. Since experimentations are already commonplace at the junior and collegiate levels, it might not be a stretch to assume that it soon becomes experimental at Grand-Slam and Davis Cup events. The plan seems to be that in a few short years our youngsters and collegians to be integrated into acceptance of abbreviators. Unfortunately, making things ‘easier to pick-up also makes them easier to put down!’
The fall-out of trying to make tennis easier could be far reaching and be impossible to reverse. The following list shows 10 reasons why ‘Hard to pick up has also been proved as hard to put down’ and why Traditional Tennis Scoring and this great game have survived the many up’s and downs since 1874. Other sport’s scoring systems have never been able to compare in depth nor in genius. The scoring system of tennis is the game’s ‘most precious heirloom.’ It must be protected as such. The following list represents the brilliance of our game’s wonderful scoring system. Maybe it is not too late to let our tennis voices be heard.
“Honor our Game – Protect Traditional Scoring!!!”
Like many aspects of tennis that seem simplistic on the outside, the depth and intrigue of its scoring system have inspired and challenged players for 132 years. Successes or non-successes have been benchmarked and gauged by its accuracy of measurement. Its’ genius has presented the ultimate challenges to the body, mind and spirit of the competitor. It is a most precious heirloom and should be respected as such. Consider the following:
Traditional scoring is a fair, accurate and time-tested barometer for the many skill-sets that it takes to win in tennis. Skills to overcome ‘pecking orders’ and to go through the normal ‘rites-of-passages,’ for tennis levels have been assessed by consistent measurement for over a hundred years. These give critical guidelines for player development. Randomness and skewed results greatly harm developmental process.
Tennis is a game of simultaneous scoring opportunity for both offense and defensive postures. Thus, the need to win by 2 points instead of one per-game is paramount!! The 7th point of no-ad is of double-jeopardy value and is actually worth two games instead of one. (eg. This overloaded value is easily understood when the set-score is 4-2 and one point makes it either 5-2 or 4-3; however, the same weight is true every time a player loses the 7th) Sadly, the benefits gained from dishonest line-calls are enhanced because such weight is given to the 7th point of the game.
Fitness is a Corner-stone for Success in Tennis. Abbreviations to traditional scoring dilute and minimize the elements of conditioning and endurance of mind, body and spirit; therefore, results are often skewed. Best USA athletes will not be inspired by dumbing down the physicality of the great sport of tennis!!!
Conversion Point (3-in-a-row) mastery is a critical skill-set for success in traditional scoring – The length of every game in no-ad scoring is 4-7 points. Also, no-ad requires the winning of only 1 point in a row for success. Those multiple situations that require very disciplined skill-sets to solve are minimized by no-ad. The skill of ‘War-Zone Endurance’ or the ability to carry and defend a lead is critical for success in tennis.
Abbreviated scoring promotes random momentum swings and neutralizes the small differences in the better player’s skill base. Traditional scoring is designed for small differences of skill to become a big advantage as a match unfolds. This is where separation of players takes place. Early war-zones that are won usually set the tone for the match; however, no-ad diminishes that hard-earned separation earned by the stronger player. Momentum that is well-earned by the better player is usually minimized.
Point Construction and a well-rounded game are highlighted by Traditional Scoring. No-ad accelerates false parity between levels without the deeper mastery of skill-sets usually required for advancement. Abbreviated scoring rewards Ball-striking skill more than Point-construction skills.
Traditional Scoring produces great drama in the closing out of each game, set and match. The bi-product is usually heightened excitement. No-ad and abbreviated scoring dilute these opportunities for drama as one false crescendo after another is manipulated by the scoring system and not by skill-sets.
Players and Coaches want to play regulation tennis! They want to play the same system that professionals have used for 132 years. They do not want to mark improvements nor important rites-of-passage that are manipulated by hybrid scoring methods.
No-Ad is not a rule of tennis – No-ad was originally invented as a novelty experiment during the tennis boom of the 1970s. There was no research done before its implementation into competitive arena. It has always been marketed as a ‘Time-Saver.’ Research in the 1980s prove that is causes more 3-set matches.
When we use traditional scoring, we are ‘Honoring of the game’ and protecting a precious Heirloom. Abbreviated forms of scoring will not sustain interest nor do they inspire players for the long-run.
Please Do Your Part to Protect and to Promote Traditional Scoring….Ask our tennis leaders to do the Same!!!
Chuck Kriese was the coach at Clemson for 33 years and retired as a hall-of-fame coach in 2008. He has returned to collegiate coaching ranks at ‘The Citadel.’ During Kriese has been named to 4 national-coach-of-the-year awards. He has coached 5 players to Junior Grand-Slam titles and 4 other second place finishes. 11 of Chuck’s players have risen to top 100 spots in the ATP and WTA. He has authored four published Tennis books and has co-authored 2 others on Clemson sports history. His 36 years of collegiate coaching produced 34 All-Americans, 4 national sr. Players of the year, 16 top 10 teams. He is a former USA national Coach; Junior Davis Cup Coach and technical Director for SE Asia Tennis. He continues to teach, coach, to write and to give motivational speeches for coaches and young people. To learn more about Coach Kriese visit his website www.ChuckKriese.Net.