How Not to Develop a Prodigy, Part II: Patrick McEnroe Rips Entitlement of Donald Young, U.S. Youth (Forgets Where it Came from)

Donald Young

I agree with Patrick McEnroe that today’s kids have a ridiculous sense of entitlement. In my opinion, especially with star athletes, it comes when you treat kids like rock stars, build them up too much. They are used to having things taken care of for them. You just focus on your greatness, we’ll deal with everything else. We’ll resolve your problems.

So they don’t live a normal childhood and then don’t know how to behave normally as adults. They have no practice at solving problems.

Donald Young has a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

Maybe that led to his profane outburst on Twitter Friday, when he wrote, “Fu—USTA!!’’ They’re “full of sh–!’’ Or, maybe not. That’s just McEnroe’s side of the story, that Young was upset he wasn’t handed a wildcard, a free pass, into the French Open. He didn’t want to play the six-person tournament the USTA had set up first. We still haven’t heard Young’s side of things.

Where are you Donald?

But let’s just take McEnroe’s word for now. He is frustrated, and had a teleconference Monday to talk about it, saying several things such as this: “You have to earn your way to get something.’’

It was a shot directed straight at Young. The problem was it wasn’t pointed the right way.

Don’t blame children for feeling entitled. It’s the adults. The kids aren’t born with an attitude problem, but have a lack of maturity, and also faulty teaching about compassion and empathy. Rock stars don’t need those things.

For example, imagine this: A sports agency and one of the greatest, and most popular tennis players of all time, get together to concoct a story that turns some 10-year old kid into The Chosen One. Turns him into tennis’ Tiger Woods. All he hears for years is that he’s the greatest. He can’t miss. And then, as a kid, he gets wildcard entries into pro events, where he can be crushed regularly, but everyone can ogle him. That, of course, interests Nike.

Meanwhile, the USTA pushes him as The Next Great Thing.

Well, we don’t have to imagine that, do we? That is Donald Young’s story. The USTA sold him – to us and to him and to his family—as the next great thing. Now, Patrick McEnroe, of the USTA, speaks out against his sense of entitlement? Of course he has a sense of entitlement.

Patrick McEnroe

His parents took the money from agents! Of course they took the money.

First time I met them, they were giving a tennis lesson on courts in a public park on the South Side of Chicago. Donald was a young teen then. He was there. Donald Sr. told me at the time that they were a middle class family.

Then John McEnroe told them, and the world, that their son was a prodigy. Everyone believed. They believed. Back then, Illona Young, Donald’s mother, told me that several agents were already calling. Then they took the money.

His parents see him as a gravy train! Of course they do. How much money do you think the Chosen One, handled right, might be worth?

The parents are tennis coaches, and did well for a while. But they’ve hit their ceiling; they have no idea how to coach a champion. They put their kid on the road to be demoralized regularly by top pros.

The sad truth: The USTA also doesn’t seem to know how to coach a champion.

And now that it’s not working out, both sides are running for cover, trying to blame the other guy.

“We’re not going to sit here and dictate everything that has to be done,’’ said Patrick McEnroe, three years into the job heading player development. “At the same time, we’re not going to be dictated to, either.

“You can’t come to me and tell me, `Here is what I want, and here is what you need to do for me.’’

The USTA is in control here. It holds the path into the tournaments. It is the establishment. And it has the money to help out. So the Youngs are forced to play the USTA’s game.

But they don’t trust the USTA’s game. The system does not have a long history of championing black kids from inner-cities.

Look how they’ve handled Donald’s tweet/rant. Young screwed up royally. He is a 21-year old who has been told one thing his whole life: You’re the Chosen One. Meanwhile, his parents keep holding his hand. I asked his Dad about that at the U.S. Open last year, and he asked me if I would let my son travel the world alone.

No, I said. But my son is 11.

Anyway, McEnroe, an ESPN analyst, with the USTA’s very talented PR hands at his disposal, held a teleconference to explain how much the USTA has done for Young, and to demand an apology. He was sincere. And he shaped the way the story is being told.

Meanwhile, the Young family hasn’t said anything.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Young has apologized to two USTA coaches, and possibly to McEnroe. He needs to do it publicly, or at least to explain. Then, maybe he should split with the USTA. He’s ranked No. 95 and can get into tournaments from here. He makes enough money, and is working with IMG again, to afford his own way. He’s not a kid anymore.

Whatever, the Youngs want to blame a lack of help from the USTA and the USTA wants to blame the Youngs. It’s no wonder the U.S. doesn’t have any great players, or any coming up.

And if there are any, maybe it’s best we don’t know who they are.


About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

2 responses to “How Not to Develop a Prodigy, Part II: Patrick McEnroe Rips Entitlement of Donald Young, U.S. Youth (Forgets Where it Came from)

  • Joe D.

    Entitlement generation aside, the USTA’s portrayal of Young as the next guy is just a reflection of there clear failure to develop players. There focus is dollar. They can fill the Open stadium every year, get sponsors, and milk USTA league tennis. They recognize that developing players to compete with the world would mean going to elementary schools and competing with football, baseball, and soccer. That costs money and would cut into the USTA’s coffers. Since there is no financial upside it’s not a priority. Parents of US players will continue to have to go it alone with little support and heavy financial burden while Europe and Asia make large investment in talented young (irony) players.

  • Blake Argo

    Tennis is an addiction and it’s an addiction that I love! I have played tennis since I was little. I was always disappointed in the tennis facilities at most colleges. I was so excited to hear that Mark Hurd f is working hard to revitalize tennis at the collegiate level but he is also trying to improve American tennis overall. He has plans to sponsor collegiate tournaments, create a new American tennis circuit, and possibly start a junior academy in California. I think that Mark Hurd is really going to turn this sport around.

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