Written by: Robby Menard
***Robby Menard who has a Bachelor of Physical Education (Science) and Specialization Tennis Fitness, is Tennis Canada Level 4 coach and Club Pro 2.
Robby is the cofounder and head coach of the Académie Ménard Girardin (A.M.G.) Montréal. Coach of the year in Québec 1993, 2005, 2007 and Tennis Canada Excellence Award holder 1994-96, 2005, 2009-2010, he has been an influential leader in the last 15 years in the Québec Tennis Federation commission of coaches, and has been involved with many professional ranked players such as Simon Larose 188 ATP and Stephanie Dubois 98 WTA. Cristina Popescu top 5 ITF ranked player.***
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What is my definition of a club, of a good tennis academy and its need to develop young elite tennis players?
My definiton is: a second family.
I’m not talking about the Bollettieri Academy, 100 kids, this is not family, this is more like a plant. No, I am more likely referring to an academy with 15-30 kids, 6-8 coaches… Or a program of a more elite-like club.
The first important thing is the physical location. It is a place where you feel good, you love the clubhouse, you play cards, you chill and yes – you talk about anything. This is your second house.
BUT the most important thing is to feel that you are part of a group. Here you make friends, you share joys, victories, here you go through challenges that seem almost impossible to overcome at the beginning but that you surmount at the end.
In this Club/Academie there are leaders who define the values that guide us during this period of our lives. When parents are no longer heard, trainers and peers reinforce the common sense.
It is a place which conveys values such as: constant search of excellence, self-transcendence, good competition…
Here is the definition of the word “competition”:
Competing : comes from Latin competere, which means to seek together. If you play your best, then I’ll have to play my best to meet your challenge.
Competitive environments promote athletic and personal development and provide opportunity for growth. Properly understood, competition is healthy and ideal avenue for helping you reach your potential.
While reading this, we can only understand all the positives of a good group.
Another thing that this second family is doing, and this is probably most important, is that it is there during the difficult periods of adolescence. There are times, sometimes 4-6 months or even up to a year, when the kids/adolescents are trying to find themselves and… YES… they get lost… This is when the GROUP/CLUB/ACADEMY helps the lost kid to go through those tumultuous times.
The definition, and the END of the Story, with the capital “S”, is to learn the errors from the past.
It is interesting to see that the EXPERIENCE of the CLUB/ACADEMY leaders is incredibly rich in order not to make the errors from the past.
People like Pierre Lamarche, Daniel Cloutier, Cristine Picher, Jaques Bordeleau, Bill Cowan, Peter Cameron, Andrea Rabzak, Rico Pollicarpo, Wayne Elderton in Canada. Examples like Mouratoglou in France and Saviano in Florida also go in this direction.
They have more that 15-20 years of experience in managing a number of coaches, parents, groups of kids and young adults. Ultimately, their ability to create an environment that promotes balance between the search for athletic excellence and creating good people capable of keeping themselves afloat in the adversity of life. These leaders make parents fulfill their role, that is: be a person who loves them, and not somebody who manages their tennis.
It’s impossible to develop young tennis players aged 10 and 14-15 without making them be part of a youth group (Club/Academy).
I’m talking about young players who are socially balanced, as well as in their studies.
Consequently, any parent or association who thinks differently hasn’t learned from the mistakes of the past.