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Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Pot? Maybe, Hypocritical NO”

Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Pot? Maybe, Hypocritical NO”

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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The phrase “The pot calling the kettle black” is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another. As generally understood, the person accusing (the “pot”) is understood to share some quality with the target of their accusation (the “kettle”). So Mr Anonymous is insinuating that ACE Tennis and Tennis Canada are the same. You know what? He is right, we both are trying to make the game better in Canada. The intent has never been questioned, what is put up for discussion is how we go about it:

  1. Should the public sector [TC] be competing with the Private sector [academies] using public sector money?
  2. Is the program offered by the public sector [TC] better than the one offered in the private sector [academies]?
  3. If the player in the private sector is as good as the one in the public sector, should he receive training assistance as well?
  4. Are the players who choose to stay in the private sector [academies] discriminated against when competitive touring opportunities occur?

Mr A agreed that there could be some very valid points in #1, 2, 3 and 4 above. What Mr A was inferring is that academies do the same as Tennis Canada when it comes to poaching players from private coaches. He claims that academies like Tennis Canada provide incentives, such as subsidised training, to recruit gifted players from coaches who work in a private club environment.

You must understand that young players have different needs as he or she is developing. Dr. Benjamin Bloom pointed out in his research how developing athletes, artists and scholars required different types of teachers at different times of their development. This is not to say that one coach cannot develop a player through the whole process but that simply the child can make greater improvements if the style and delivery of the coach changes with the stages of development of the person.

For a tennis player to attain success he requires the following:

1. Proper coaching, as described above [quality]
a. Qualified
b. Experienced
c. Athlete centered
2. Proper environment
a. Amount of training available [on court and off]
b. Complementary areas of development
i. Mental
ii. Physical
iii. Injury management
iv. Career management
c. Quality of players to train with
i. Players that are better
ii. Players of the same level
iii. Role models
3. Proper competitive opportunities
a. Volume
b. Quantity
c. Affordable

What happens if a very good coach [1.a.b.c.] with two courts keeps on developing the best under 12 players in his area, but he does not have [2.a.b.c.]? If he is a coach who cares about his player, he will find the proper environment for his budding star. That might mean for him a] to change his own coaching environment [not always that easy, finding a new club which provides the necessary environment and which is accessible to the player], [b] to create his own proper environment [all coaches dream of this but few have the resources to do so] or c. find a situation where the player he coaches can train somewhere else and receive the volume required.

That environment can be an academy, where the coach remains the coach and where the player trains outside with his personal coach. In our academy, the content of training is mostly tactical, mental and physical. Players in our academy have their own coaches who are responsible for their technical game style development. That coach can be someone from the academy or as it happens, a coach who works together with the player and the academy. It is not the best situation but it works and if there is cooperation between the academy and the coach.

Many academies provide scholarships and most of them are based on need. Bringing a quality player to a program certainly enhances the training environment for other players while providing the scholarship player with the proper environment. If a player and coach are satisfied with his present training environment, there is no reason for him to attend an academy.

This is not the same as Tennis Canada which through the use of public development funds, recruits youngsters to receive subsidised coaching because it infers the present coaching is not satisfactory. One, the academy provides the training environment, while the other [TC] uses public funds to provide “better coaching”, which is available only at their center. No offense but many of the private coaches are as capable as the designated TC coaches. Think about this, a deserving player from Ottawa or London would have to travel three times a week to the National Center in Toronto to receive three private lessons from a TC coach. Would it be possible to do it in a more cost efficient manner by giving the money to the coach who has developed the player to work with them on a more frequent basis?

Recruiting by academies that subsidize youngsters in need of a training environment is quite different than Tennis Canada recruiting youngsters who are in a proper training environment, using the perks of free private lessons [from public funds] and competitive travel as an enticement to leave their academy or coach… so hypocritical? No, calling the kettle black, maybe.

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6 Responses to “Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “Pot? Maybe, Hypocritical NO””

  1. 1
    Anonymous Says:

    Pierre, I appreciate your response and I am not trying to engage in a “tete de tete” with you. I would have been happy just to have pointed out the hypocrisy and been on my way. But your response to my comment, while full of content, lacked at best a realistic view of the private industry.

    Far be it for me not to agree with Dr. Benjamin Bloom. But in my own personal opinion, during the early stages of a players development (under the age of 18) it is far more optimal to find a qualified coach (one that has consistently produced players) and stick with them. If you look at the players in Canada that are currently on tour (Raonic, Fichman, Polansky to name a couple) the ones I can think of did exactly this. Not to mention the countless players on tour from other countries. I’d hope that the parents/players that do this are not just feeling it is optimal from a performance perspective, but that sport is also about learning life skills. Teaching them to have faith and trust in the person that has brought them this far. Not to simply jump ship when you have natural doubts or tempting offers. These aren’t the pillars of having a strong marriage are they……?

    The rest of your response reads like a marketing pamphlet for your Academy. All I can say to this is that what is written on paper is only worth the paper it’s written on. You have to actually live up to what you advertise, and perhaps you do. The tennis industry all over the world is full of fantastic authors :) . I hope the consumer goes more by word of mouth than what they read on paper.

    To pretend that your Academy, and most others, aren’t competitive and actively recruiting players is disingenuous. I could point out actual occurrences but wont. All you have to do is attend junior tournaments and you will see it. Also, to think that a player will take privates outside of the Academy that they train at on a daily basis wouldn’t make sense, even their personal coaches would agree with this. I think you also agreed with this.

    In short, nothing you presented has swayed my opinion. You speaking to how Tennis Canada is demoralizing coaches, by taking their players away, is in fact hypocritical and I think most people would agree. Stick with the public funding and efficacy arguments, they have way better legs.

    P.s. Our ecosystem is changing. There is a bigger fish now swimming amongst us. Luckily, it has a small appetite and won’t be a threat to most. But for the fish it is affecting, you will have to learn and adapt to stay alive. Natural selection at it’s finest :)

  2. 2
    Madis Kreem Says:

    There are some elements in this private-public training discussion that seems to be missing, and that is the player themself or their parent. Tennis players are not agent owned commodities like some real estate agents think “their” listed houses are. Many players actually come from families where at least one parent is either a fairly good player or a tennis arm-chair fanatic, and frequently are quite capable of some fairly good tennis teaching and training. The Williams sisters, Bryan brothers, Nadal, Agassi, Federer, Hingis and Raunic are only but a small sample where a multitude of parents, uncles, or relatives have had a significant impact to their player’s fantastic development. This is not to undermine some of the great professional coaching and training that is available at both private and publicly-subsidized clubs, even if they are “stealing/enticing” players or coaches from each other.

    The simple fact is the old 10,000 hours rule….one has to simply hit a lot of balls or practice any sport, skill or art if one truly wants to rise to a higher level…even for those extremely gifted. In tennis, what easier way can there possibly be, without financial parental hardship, for getting much of that training than hitting several of those 1000s of balls with one’s own parent or relative, with whatever ball weight, number, and court size/surface they choose, and where courts are accessible at reasonable hours and reasonably priced all year in Canada’s climate. As a tennis parent for my 11 year old I know that one has to be willing, persistent, and a bit creative to do this. Sometimes this involves searching out and joining reasonably priced “close” clubs where court availability for playing with juniors during prime time is possible, choosing to play with one’s own son or daughter rather than other adults, being hungry enough to make court bookings when needed to suit family schedules, searching out all the public tennis court hours times locally, buying tennis magazines and encouraging on-line available instructions and videos, speaking up at annual meetings and to club managements regarding issues of limiting public available hours or restricting junior access, finding good practice walls without cars or barriers, buying one’s own tennis net for where only posts are provided, challenging court use hogs, and even expecting those who have “booked” court times to show documented proof.

    Frankly, I’ve always been a bit perplexed how many parents are sitting outside a tennis fence or even inside a bubble watching tennis coaching, when they could be on the court themselves and getting some hits and exercise themselves. I doubt if too many tennis coaches are crazy about this either. It is clearly evident that the whole country needs a workout, not just aspiring or privileged kids or their parents/coaches who want them to “own the podium”. I know my own son has developed well due to my regular hitting with him, supplemented at some private and public lessons, and I am proud that he is progressing and even enjoying beating me on some points…partly because of me!

  3. 3
    Anonymous#2 Says:

    Who is Anonymous? There seems to be a disconnect between the “public sector” and the “private sector”. Why is a Tennis Canada representative scared of presenting who he/she is? What is there to hide when you’re part of the industry anyways? How far up is this individual’s opinion representing? Why does Tennis Canada want to avoid a “tête-à-tête”? Wouldn’t that be beneficial to two organizations trying to improve the game of tennis in Canada? Or is there something wrong with Pierre Lamarche’s professionalism that you (Tennis Canada representatives) don’t want anything to do with him?

    It appears to me (someone from the outside looking in) that Tennis Canada hasn’t completed its analysis in their decision to be the “bigger fish” in the sea.

    I must say I was completely swayed by Pierre’s argument before I read Anonymous’ article. And I would completely agree with the reply by Anonymous as well. The private coaches have to make do with how tennis academies are just as demoralizing to them “by taking their players away”. And it doesn’t seem Pierre objects to that.

    Did Tennis Canada decide on becoming the bigger fish without looking at the consequences? And if TC did, the end analysis is to see how these tennis academies adapt to it?? Is that the answer? You didn’t try to work with them to come up with a different strategy or at least something that would complement your current strategy to enable them to “adapt” a little better? I think we can expect better from an organization with such “deep pockets”, nevermind the “deep pockets” comes from the “public”. The difference between TC being the bigger fish and the tennis academies being the bigger fish, is that TC is meant to support these tennis academies whereas the tennis academies don’t have that same responsibility to private coaches. Or am I wrong?

    Your comment, Anonymous, “Stick with the public funding and efficacy arguments, they have way better legs.” Very true, those legs are longer. But you’re also telling us that TC cares about pouring most of its funded monies into a few kids rather than try and look after as many kids as possible, right? Or am I wrong? If so, maybe you (Tennis Canada) can spare a bit more for those community tennis clubs? Or if you really have such “deep pockets”, how about subsidizing the creation of new winter tennis clubs in Canada. I think that’s a more important issue than creating a few (at most) elite tennis players that can compete on the world stage, wouldn’t most of you agree? Actually wouldn’t that be quite beneficial to those elite players training in Canada? They could have more access to tennis locally in the winter? We would have more tennis participants (both juniors and adults) in the winter. Maybe, with time, those elite players wouldn’t have to move elsewhere to find better competition.

    Tennis Canada’s Mission statement: “Tennis Canada shall lead the growth, promotion and showcasing of the sport of tennis in Canada, build a system that helps produce world class players, and foster the pursuit of excellence for all.” It would have a more accurate mission statement if you scrubbed off that “for all” gibberish because TC only has a “small appetite”.

    If TC has such nice “deep pockets” and the ability to change the “ecosystem”, why can it not come up with a change where these tennis academies are in less of a foul mood? By the way, TC’s mission statement said it would “build a system that helps produce world class players”, how about changing that too? Man.. I think someone needs to be audited.

    Tennis Canada’s Vision: “Tennis will be a leading sport and recreational activity nationally and Canada will consistently rank among the world’s top tennis nations.” I guarantee you everyone in Canada will agree you are nowhere close to ever realizing this vision. “All I can say to this is that what is written on paper is only worth the paper it’s written on.”

    Oh, and this is the pot calling the kettle black.

    Anonymous#2

  4. 4
    Anonymous Says:

    Hi Anonymous #2,
    Sorry I didn’t see your response earlier. Once the story gets replaced by other lead stories I don’t always go back and check for responses. Not sure you will see this response, but hope you do.
    Nevertheless, I agree with everything you have stated. Particularly with the statement regarding “bubbled” winter tennis. That would be huge but it will never happen because the indoor clubs passionately hate bubbles (unfair competition) and Tennis Canada understandably supports the indoor clubs.
    I am not a representative of Tennis Canada nor do I agree with most of what they have done over the many years. I have been working in the tennis industry for 30yrs. and I am an accomplished coach. I understand Pierre’s position regarding unfair competition by Tennis Canada but thought it was ridiculous when he played the card of being a victim of “poaching” when it is the cornerstone of his business model…. I felt I had to say something. The reason I want to stay anonymous is because this is a very small industry and you can sometimes be punished for speaking the truth (a la Gerry Maguire).
    Anonymous

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