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Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Trouble Down Below”

Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Trouble Down Below”

Written by: Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche

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***Pierre Lamarche has been an outspoken proponent of Canadian tennis and how the sport should have a major place in the Canadian sport landscape. He believes this lofty ambition can only be achieved through the combination of success on the international professional competitive scene, with the required domestic infrastructure and a true partnership between Tennis Canada and the tennis private sector.

His comments are often taken as critical by those who feel targeted by his questions. His background as a player, coach, and leader [see background] in the sport and coaching industry warrants that his views, which are shared by many others, be given due process by anyone [or organization] who really wants to help Canadian Tennis achieve the proper national status it deserves in the sport community.***

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One of the greatest ironies of our society is how we constantly face directives from public sector institutions and individuals who quite often do not have the experience, success or knowledge necessary to qualify for such a role. Even more disconcerting is the empowerment that comes from the position and which deafens them to any feedback from the people they are dictating to. It seems in tennis that unlike in Canada, where everything is perfect in the relationship between coaches, parents and players, there are huge problems in our neighbors to the south. I say unlike because except for my disgruntled old voice, I have been told by Tennis Canada staff that their system does not have those authoritarian slants, and that the majority is happy. But when I read some of the issues in the US, I wonder if it’s because they are further along the route that Tennis Canada is following, or simply because they are American and are not afraid to be outspoken.

The following is from Tim Mayotte, the former #7 ATP ranked player, silver medalist in Seoul and former National Coach for the USTA. He wonders about the dictatorial mandates of the US.

The USTA is forcing coaches and their players down a rigid and therefore ill-conceived path… It is yet another expression of the leaders of the USTA’s culture of rigidity and heavy-handedness. This pattern is alarming and has had, and will continue to have far-reaching negative consequences… Most tragically, when I and others seriously questioned “the Philosophy,” were informed that these questions were not welcome. I was forced to apologize for my curiosity. What was more upsetting was that these programs were put in place by coaches and managers who had never spent significant time developing juniors.

I wish this was only my experience. Sadly, many, many others have dealt with this approach inside and outside the organization. The consequences of this rigid thinking and implementation have been devastating and enormous. Five years later, and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars later, USTA PD has produced very few top prospects, fired many, many, coaches, alienated hundreds of others, and angered curious parents who are told to stay out of the process of their children’s development.

This mandate is just more of the same. This pattern of heavy-handedness and rigidity must end. (Ironically, when I was at the USTA, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, that required scores of man-hours, on a program called “Cultural Change.” We were “taught” how to become flexible and collaborate with our co-workers.)

Those at the USTA would do better by opening their minds and begin to understand at some point that doing something extremely well, getting kids on the right track, developing top players, is a delicate, complicated process that demands collaboration between players, coaches, parents, the industry and the USTA. They must also understand that Mandates do not help players, coaches, parents and tennis. We can all remain friends, but the best friendships and fullest kind of development, are built on dialogue, discussion and flexibility.

The Bear asks: “Does this sound familiar?”

  1. Culture of rigidity and heavy-handedness,
  2. These questions were not welcome,
  3. 5 years later, and tens of millions of dollars later, the USTA… has produced very few top prospects, fired many, many, coaches, alienated hundreds of others,
  4. Those at the USTA would do better by opening their minds,
  5. Developing top players, is a delicate, complicated process that demands collaboration between players, coaches, parents, the industry and the USTA.

This letter is from Robert Landsdorp, former coach of Davenport, Sampras, Sharapova and Austin:

Sorry, but I am just not smart enough to understand what all the USTA is doing to screw up the future of American tennis. You don’t need all this B.S. the USTA is feeding everybody. I can tell you quickly what kid has TALENT and then you develop the talent. Talented kids have great eye-hand coordination. Now you look how well they time the ball. Champions have great eye tracking ability. If there is a problem that is not caught at a very young age, there will always be a problem. Quickness. Some kids are born quick. Sampras did not need a physical fitness guy to be fast when he was little. HE WAS FAST. Some people are born slow at foot and I don’t care how much you make them run, they will never be as fast as Sampras or Nadal. However, if they are slower, you develop their game with more accurate power, like Davenport, Sharapova and Isner. Can you imagine these people having been developed by Higueras with a lot of Spanish high top spins? NO CHANCE. You don’t need all this USTA crap. You have to DEVELOP, something Patrick McEnroe and Higueras don’t know anything about. That is why they are coming up with all these gimmicks. The USTA should be a supporting kind of organization, helping coaches and parents. Instead of eliminating the coaches and parents who got them there. They just take all the credit. When are the people in this country going to wake up and get rid of the USTA Developing Fiasco. The sooner, the better. Don’t really need a bunch of egotistical wannabes. Some kids are physically talented, others are mentally talented. Bring these qualities together by DEVELOPING them, like Davenport, Sampras, Sharapova, Austin and every other great champion. The USTA Junior Development has been in business for almost 40 years and have NEVER DEVELOPED ONE (ONE) CHAMPION. My God, doesn’t that tell you enough!

Dr Ray Brown says:

I cannot get past this haunting sentence in Tim’s letter:

Most tragically, when I and others seriously questioned “the Philosophy,” were informed that these questions were not welcome. I was forced to apologize for my curiosity.

The implications of this one sentence are far reaching and foretell of a character flaw within the USTA PD program of the most egregious and despicable nature. This one sentence damns the PD program on a level that is beyond our imagination. The hubris necessary to require Tim to apologize for seeking the truth staggers the imagination and reveals a thoroughly un-American, despotic and self centered view of the world.

I cannot believe that the USTA Directors are willing to tolerate their good name to be dragged through the mud by subordinates having such disrespect for the fundamental values of this country.

Were these foreign nationals? If so, pull their work authorization cards and send them home. We have enough despicable characters that were born here to be inviting more from other countries.

If they are foreign nationals, get me their names.

The Bear says: “No wonder I love America thanks for the 60’s revolution, the questioning of authority, civil rights and the right to be heard.”

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11 Responses to “Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Trouble Down Below””

  1. 1
    Tra DuBois Says:

    Rah! Rah! Rah! DIRECTLY TO THE POINT! GO TIM, GO ROBERT, GIVE’M HELL!

    HOW DO THE COURTS LOOK & PLAY PIERRE? TRA

  2. 2
    Mark Says:

    Robert Landsdorp said the USTA did not develop any players through their National programs, fair enough. But comparing them to what the Canadian centre has been doing is not the same. The National Centre in Montreal has had great successes with Milos, Pospisil, Peliwo, Bouchard and others. We are doing it right, they arent! Go Canada! Cant wait to watch the NTC Products display it all against Spain in the Davis Cup in February!

  3. 3
    Joe Says:

    Milos – marginally
    Pospisil – never trained there! Almost left to play for another country
    Peliwo – marginally
    Bouchard – trained in florida and travelled and trained with Natalie!
    im not convinced….

  4. 4
    guy from the hinterlands Says:

    USA-has nobody up and coming to be to 15-Isner is not going anywhere.
    Tennis Canada is like the broken clock (that is correct twice a day), they are attempting to take credit for results that they did not produce. Tennis Canada does not even do such basisc tasks as track and communicate with their top 5 prospects in any age category. How can they be the trustees for the sport in Canada??????

  5. 5
    The Bear Says:

    Mark, if you agree the USTA is not doing their job but the Tennis Center in Montreal is, consider the following: US top male player #10, Canada #15, US top 100 male 8, Canada 1, US top female player #4, Canada #42, Us top 100 female 9, Canada 1, US Junior Grand slam winners past 10 years 6, Canada 2. No offense but numbers are not subjective. Your interpretation of our players being developed at the center is erroneous and subjective, please Pospisil????

    You are reading to much Tennis Canada self serving justification of a program which divides our country and who in the long term affects the health of the sport as it relates to the development of potential players. Please read unfair.

    You should research the Milos story [as told to me by Milos] of where he was developed. Of course publicly he would not be involved in such a discussion, but the reality is that what happened for him in Montreal [the time he was there] could have been done at many other locations as is evident with his move to Spain.

    Smoke and mirrors, money wasted, deserving kids ignored, parents blackmailed and coaches [who produce these players in the first place] pushed aside. That’s the way, keep your center in Montreal, I also have a bridge to sell you in New York.

  6. 6
    Oscar Wegner Says:

    It’s interesting how the USTA (Canada may be an exception) is experimenting in many areas, but not addressing the major one, found in a USTA and tennis Industry survey in the early 1990s: developing (or adopting) instruction that makes tennis easy to learn. I did that for Spain in 1973, for Brazil in through the 1980s, then influenced the Russians and South Eastern Europe with my 1989 and 1992 books, Latin America with my ESPN work starting in 1994, etc. Many coaches in these countries liked the methods and the results have been astounding, Tennis CAN be much easier to learn and to succeed at. You can all help by letting people know about this methodology. You can test it yourself. Read more about it at my tennisteacher website. Not only make it fun for kids, but actual players that can rally in an easy way, but which resembles the pros. Gone are the misconceptions that some of these new techniques are harmful for the body. On the contrary, they are better for the body, more natural, more efficient. Even health care professionals agree!

  7. 7
    Casey Says:

    Hey Pierre,

    It would be great to hear Oscar’s thoughts on the subject of the article. Anyway- As you know the information which you have presented here is well known to the USTA and Tennis Canada. Unfortunately no matter how compelling it is things remain the same.

    My biggest concern with National Centres is that they remove the very best Pro Prospects from the overall competitive structure in a country and therefore make it more difficult for the Private Sector to develop Top Professionals. If the National Centres don’t get the job done a country will be left with mediocre Professionals. Three countries have fairly recently joined the National Centre crowd- The U.S. , Great Britain, and Canada.

    There is a relatively new theory that a highly ranked Professional can not be developed before the age of 23 or 24. This is total nonscense. The theory may have been started by a National Organization with a National Centre as it would appear that fewer and fewer top 100 players under the age of 25 are being produced by these countries. Maybe the truth is that players are more free to develop after they leave the centres!!!! Mmm –

    France has only 1 player under the age of 25, Benoit Paire, in the top 100 and to the best of my knowledge he had not been a part of their National Centre program when I met him at the age of 18. Spain has 2 players but I am not sure where they trained- the U.S has 2, neither of whom trained at at a National Centre. Great Britain- in spite of spending massive sums on their National Centre has 0 – Argentina has 0.

    I am not sure if you can draw a total cause/ effect type of relationship here but it is certainly worth a close look.

    Casey

  8. 8
    Mark Says:

    Pierre, The US also has a population 9 X more than Canada and a lot more kids playing tennis. On a ratio basis I think Tennis Canada is producing very good numbers relatively speaking with their centre in their short existence. Also there is a pipeline of young talent waiting in the wings. Abanda, Zhao, Bouchard in the girls and Peliwo in the boys. Perhaps Milos could have had the same result training somewhere else, and perhaps if I had started tennis at 5 years old I could have been number 1 in the world…Could have…Would have…Should have….hindsight is always 20/20! Mark

  9. 9
    Tom Says:

    I had the pleasure of taking some of my Tennis Canada courses with, in my opinion one of the best coaches in the business Louis Cayer. When I started in his coach 3 program we learned the Tennis Canada Method. (Which was really the Louis method, because he developed most of the Tennis Canada method.) The methodology was very specific and structured in both content and language and built a very rigid way to develop players. I liked it because it was easy to follow and it made sense. Five years later I took a course with Louis after he had left Canada to work in London and he still had great things to say about how to coach high performance players, but he had changed his tune. He must have said at least three times during his seminar ” this is not the only method to train high performance athletes” Louis learned what Tennis Canada and all of us need to learn. We need to support grass roots tennis, we need to have a strong competitive structure, we need to give our coaches support and the FREEDOM to train their athletes individually and we need to share information with out prejudice to parents, coaches, athletes, and yes leaders in our industry. There is no perfect system. We will fail, but if we learn from our failures and continue to improve and move forward, we will be successful.

  10. 10
    Casey Says:

    Hi guys-

    Is anyone else getting tired of the same ole same ole?? Will someone please come up with some original material!!!

    Having said that-

    It would appear to me that the only real measurable difference in Canadian Tennis at the moment is that we have a male top 15 player. And actualy, if TC is going to take credit for Milos then we may as well say Greg Rusedski was a Canadian trained player ( although I know he had some out of country Coaching) and thefore remains the highest ranked Canadian Player ever. We have had several excellent juniors in the past who, although they didn’t quite get the top prize in junior slams, came within a few points of it . We have had top 100 male players before and top 20 or 30 females before. This was long before the National Centre. So – instead of Finalists in the junior slams, we now have the winners. That would seem to be what we have accomplished so far for our millions of dollars on the centre and various coaches. Did I miss something. I know who coached Milos and I know who coached Vasek. Let’s cut the crap.

  11. 11
    Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “The Bear Weighs In” | oncourt.ca Says:

    [...] National Associations being directly responsible for the development of players to the pros brought quite a few comments, none as direct and insightful as the two from Casey Curtis, Milos Raonic’s former coach in his [...]

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