On Taylor Townsend and When Being Good Isn’t Enough
The USTA raised a few eyebrows when it refused to fund Taylor Townsend’s US Open berth. Townsend is 16 years old and is the number one junior women’s tennis player in the world. The USTA has made an attempt in recent years to take a firmer hand in developing talent and Taylor Townsend is just that. So why would the USTA refuse to help get her on the court?
Her size and health, according to Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA player development program. McEnroe states that the decision to bench Townsend was based solely on the association’s desire to develop Townsend’s career for the long term.
No matter what the reasoning or excuse, the decision has caused a bit of a stir. Raising questions of racial discrimination, body type discrimination and pushing the tennis world to define exactly what it means to be fit. Teens, girls especially, can be expected to go through bodily changes. The child isn’t finished growing. What pressure is the USTA putting on her at such a critical time in her mental, physical and emotional development? Because if a young tennis champion who has competed in two matches in one day can be called out of shape, then who exactly is in shape? I understand that Taylor Townsend is a tennis champion and should be expected to adhere to her association’s standards but what I can’t understand are the ridiculous standards the USTA has in place for her.
Taylor Townsend and her mother have handled this situation gracefully but my concern extends beyond Taylor and to every child who will look up to her. This only sends the message that being a champion is not enough. Sitting at the apex of your profession is not enough. You must look a certain way when doing it. And that is a ridiculous notion.