Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success? - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 09:28 AM Thread Starter
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Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

SO, here's my thing:

I'm a big fan of the Age Eligibility Rule. I think it's important to put a system in place to prevent, basically, child labor on an exploitative scale, and I think there's enough history of monstrous tennis parents using their kids as cash-cows/living vicariously through them, AND enough history of physical burnout as a consequence of playing too much, too big, too young, to justify putting some kind of system in place.

I'm also extremely suspicious of the current campaign against it (or, rather, questioning of it) being waged by so many in 'the media', seemingly because Federer has greenlit conversation of it all of a sudden (and the fact he has a financial stake in a 15 year old's success is, I'm sure, unrelated to that....)

HOWEVER....

The recent thread on Michelle Larcher de Brito got me thinking: is there any proof that the AER actually, you know, worked? Do we know that it reduced the number of burnout cases, or liberated young women from controlling fathers/coaches by providing them time to grow up before they become elite players?

Because I can think of an uncomfortable number of cases of burnout since the creation of the AER.

Michelle Larcher de Brito: won a match against a top 100 player at age 14, career high ranking at age 16, last notable results at age 20 and 22 (defeating Sharapova and Ivanovic, both in the top 10 at the respective time of the match), now a real estate agent (and maybe dog hotel owner?) at age 26.

Nicole Vaidisova: top 10 player at age 17, 2nd week of slams regularly at age 16, effectively stopped playing at age 20.

Tatiana Golovin: 2nd week of majors at age 15 and 16, reached #12 at age 20, retired at age 20.

Agnes Szavay: junior French Open title, skyrocketed up the rankings at age 18 (from outside top 100 to YE #20) by virtue of a strong clay season, a breakout US summer season (final New Haven, QF US Open), and a title at the Beijing Tier II, then a couple years of chronic back injury and she was effectively retired by age 22.

There are others in there who achieved career heights as teenagers and never came close to them again: Tamira Paszek, Sesil Karatantcheva, Michaela Krajicek, etc.

So the question is, do the Age Eligibility Rules have any proof of success? Some players (Anisimova, for example) have expressed gratitude to them, which is great, but are there any actual qualitative studies on teen burnout before the AER and after the AER?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 10:25 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

AER is not a silver bullet to prevent burnout, as the cases you've picked out illustrate. A player can burn out under media pressure at any age, as plenty of 20somethings we've seen recently also illustrate. It's also not a perfect system - it's always had loopholes, like no limit to the amount of junior tournaments allowed.

There probably isn't a silver bullet solution because both physical and mental burnout are complex, usually with many reasons behind them.

That doesn't mean AER isn't valuable, and I think one of the strongest aspects of it is that it prevents a child from being forced into the role of family breadwinner. In every entertainment field where there's a fixation on youth, there are exploitative people whose only interest is in making a quick buck off a young talent - you can see them circling Gauff already. At her age, the only pressure she should be feeling is her own internal competitive pressure - not about fulfilling media commitments or making money.

The number of people who are so quick to declare that she's ready and able to deal with all of this based on, what, a couple of composed and mature press conferences, is disturbing.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 11:00 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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Originally Posted by gold fangs View Post
like no limit to the amount of junior tournaments allowed.
Juniors will be playing other tournaments if they are restricted from playing at the level based on merit.

Tennis is a non-contact sport, safe compared with a lot of other sports. If they can make some money get on TV good on them. If junior tennis players are good enough to play against professional players why not.

Junior tennis players are free to sign up with the British and Australian Army at 16, and the US Army at 17. But they have to be protected from the dangers of playing professional tennis...
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 11:47 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

People are not undrestanding the reality of a situation where a 12 year old can make endorsement money. Parents are desperate for the money, thats why the kid is good so early, parents rushed them into it
Part of it is that a full WTA schedule is very tough on the body, and part of it is that parents want as much money now as possible because they know their kid can get injured or mentally unravel any match
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 11:57 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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Originally Posted by tennis-frog View Post
Juniors will be playing other tournaments if they are restricted from playing at the level based on merit.

Tennis is a non-contact sport, safe compared with a lot of other sports. If they can make some money get on TV good on them. If junior tennis players are good enough to play against professional players why not.

Junior tennis players are free to sign up with the British and Australian Army at 16, and the US Army at 17. But they have to be protected from the dangers of playing professional tennis...
Tennis is safer than other sports for the reasons you mentioned. On the other hand, the professional tour is quite demanding physically and many top players get injured on a regular basis. Many careers were ended early by terrible injuries. Also, another thing that can happen is getting a chronic injury that still allows you to play, but never at one hundred percent.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 12:38 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

In a way, you can't exactly prove AER prevented any cases of early burn out. There is this blind spot in research.

Like "When I clap my hands once everyday, I prevent influenza." If you then never get influenza, is that the reason? And if you get it, you can always say "But if I never had clapped, it would be worse."

So much to the logics.

I think the rule is still good. It gives young tennis players opportunities. The opportunity to develop with less exposure to the media. The opportunity to build success in small steps, which should last longer. The opportunity to let the body develop/mature before putting professional pressure on it.

Of course, you might argue less tournaments bring more pressure to a young player, because they might feehl they have few chances to perform. Or that you get better by demanding a lot.

I think the pros outweigh the cons. And in the end, AER is there to protect those who might not have an own voice. Everybody who might feel hindered/disadvanteged by the rule might feel more at ease with this rule, if he/she thinks about this.

(BTW is this rule also in place for ATP?)
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 03:15 PM
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I could also give you the teenage phenoms who didn’t burn out and were doing quite well for themselves before they turned 18 and actually had somewhat sustainable careers after they turned 18...Sharapova, Venus, Serena, Vekic, Bencic, Cornet, Wozniacki, Azarenka, Radwanska, Ivanovic. I’m sure there’s more that I’m not thinking of.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 03:25 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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I could also give you the teenage phenoms who didn’t burn out and were doing quite well for themselves before they turned 18 and actually had somewhat sustainable careers after they turned 18...Sharapova, Venus, Serena, Vekic, Bencic, Cornet, Wozniacki, Azarenka, Radwanska, Ivanovic. I’m sure there’s more that I’m not thinking of.
They came up under the age rules which were around since the mid 90s.
Serena, Venus didnt play juniors. Sharapova, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Radwanska werent playing any WTA events their parents wanted when at 15

https://www.tennisworldusa.org/tenni...r-tournaments/
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 03:34 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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I could also give you the teenage phenoms who didnít burn out and were doing quite well for themselves before they turned 18 and actually had somewhat sustainable careers after they turned 18...Sharapova, Venus, Serena, Vekic, Bencic, Cornet, Wozniacki, Azarenka, Radwanska, Ivanovic. Iím sure thereís more that Iím not thinking of.
All of these came up under AER except Venus and Serena, who may as well have done given how little they played as teenagers.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 03:47 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

I think it does hold some players back. One example would be Su-Wei Hsieh. In 2001, aged 15, she won 5 ITF events in a row. Then on the main tour, she reached the SF in Bali and QF in Pattaya. The following season though, she struggled to establish herself, losing early in a few events and not being able to build any kind of rhythm due to the limited amount of events she was eligible to play. Thankfully she didn't give up and is now playing some of her best tennis at the age of 33.

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 03:49 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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I think it does hold some players back. One example would be Su-Wei Hsieh. In 2001, aged 15, she won 5 ITF events in a row. Then on the main tour, she reached the SF in Bali and QF in Pattaya. The following season though, she struggled to establish herself, losing early in a few events and not being able to build any kind of rhythm due to the limited amount of events she was eligible to play. Thankfully she didn't give up and is now playing some of her best tennis at the age of 33.
That wasn't why Hsieh slumped. She had a lot of family issues and was estranged from her father for a while.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 20th, 2019, 04:13 PM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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They came up under the age rules which were around since the mid 90s.
Serena, Venus didnt play juniors. Sharapova, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Radwanska werent playing any WTA events their parents wanted when at 15

https://www.tennisworldusa.org/tenni...r-tournaments/
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All of these came up under AER except Venus and Serena, who may as well have done given how little they played as teenagers.
Exactly...what I'm saying is for all the people who say "there are still a bunch of burnout cases under AER" there are also a bunch of players who under AER didn't burnout and went on to have pretty sustainable tennis careers. Also, AER started existing in 1995 I believe so Serena and Venus were basically brought up under it as Venus was 15 at the time.

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 2019, 10:13 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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I could also give you the teenage phenoms who didnít burn out and were doing quite well for themselves before they turned 18 and actually had somewhat sustainable careers after they turned 18...Sharapova, Venus, Serena, Vekic, Bencic, Cornet, Wozniacki, Azarenka, Radwanska, Ivanovic. Iím sure thereís more that Iím not thinking of.
But even before the AER there were successful teen phenomenons who didn't burn out or suffer terrible injury. Chris Evert was a four-time slam champion before age 20, and made, at minimum, a major final a year for the next 13 years. Goolagong won the Channel Double at age 19 and was contesting events a decade later. Steffi Graf won the Golden Slam when she was 19, not even her first majors, and won the French Open 11 years afterwards.

The proof of AER working isn't that there are still successful teens who keep playing into their late 20s and 30s, because that's always been true. The proof of AER working is that there aren't teenage burnouts, and it's clear that that's not the case.

So the question I have is, do we need to accept a certain amount of teenage burnout as the cost of doing business, or do we need to assess how the AER works (for example, all the exceptions and increases and loopholes) and find a fix?
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 2019, 10:45 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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But even before the AER there were successful teen phenomenons who didn't burn out or suffer terrible injury. Chris Evert was a four-time slam champion before age 20, and made, at minimum, a major final a year for the next 13 years. Goolagong won the Channel Double at age 19 and was contesting events a decade later. Steffi Graf won the Golden Slam when she was 19, not even her first majors, and won the French Open 11 years afterwards.

The proof of AER working isn't that there are still successful teens who keep playing into their late 20s and 30s, because that's always been true. The proof of AER working is that there aren't teenage burnouts, and it's clear that that's not the case.

So the question I have is, do we need to accept a certain amount of teenage burnout as the cost of doing business, or do we need to assess how the AER works (for example, all the exceptions and increases and loopholes) and find a fix?
You're assuming that AER is the sole measure for eliminating teenage burnout. But the players, their parents and the people they trust still need to play their own part in managing workload, health and other factors. Similarly, speed limits are in place to prevent road accidents but cannot prevent them all. There might always be some cases of teenage burnout.

I think it's a good rule as it prevents people motivated by greed from overtly exploiting the players. It's a protective measure for teenagers who would might not be able to voice their own concerns. And for some, maybe it's not that clear where they should draw the line to say how many matches are too much so the AER is there to set the standard.

All I know is that it's been a while since we've seen abusive parents like that of Dokic, Pierce, Graf, Bartoli, Capriati and Lucic. The only one the seems to be at that level is Bernard Tomic's dad.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old Jul 23rd, 2019, 10:56 AM
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Re: Age Eligibility Rule conversation - any proof of success?

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Originally Posted by goldenlox View Post
People are not undrestanding the reality of a situation where a 12 year old can make endorsement money. Parents are desperate for the money, thats why the kid is good so early, parents rushed them into it
Part of it is that a full WTA schedule is very tough on the body, and part of it is that parents want as much money now as possible because they know their kid can get injured or mentally unravel any match
Someone said that It's exactly what happened this May to Dasha Lopatetskaya. Of course, she told in the interview that It's her fault, not her mother's but who knows.

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