***Douglas Burke was Canadian Junior champion Under 18 in 1981. His family had moved to Canada in 1978 from Jamaica. After University at Sothern Illinois, where he played with Grand Slam doubles winners Ken Flack and Robert Seguso [husband of Carling Bassett] he returned to Canada to be coached by Pierre Lamarche at the All-Canadian Academy. There he trained with Hatem Mcdadi, Chris Pridham, Grant Connell, Simon Bartram, Daniel Nestor – all players which helped carry Canada’s colors in the 1980’s. It was decided, given the opportunity, to play Davis Cup for Jamaica where he shined as a player with teammate Karl Hale, before becoming National Coach/Tennis Director for the Carribbean country for the last 17 years. It has been announced that he is leaving his full time position with Tennis Jamaica. His son Brandon was recently named Ivy League rookie of the year at Brown University where he plays doubles with Canadian Soufiane Azargui.***
ONcourt: You are one of many great athletes from Jamaica which have represented Canada and brought honour to this country. Why is there such a strong Jamaican representation in Canadian athletes?
Doug Burke: There is a strong connection between Jamaica and Canada. Canada is a very multicultural country as it has accepted people from many different countries, including Jamaica for a long time. The natural athletic gifts of Jamaicans, especially in track and field, are well-known. Over the years many Jamaicans/Canadians have gotten the opportunity to express their athletic talents.
ONcourt: When you started, how did you feel when you were a kid from Jamaica playing in Canada?
Doug Burke: It was a very different playing environment for me at first here in Canada, playing indoors with new people etc. However I lived with a very nice tennis family in Toronto, the Senns, and this helped with the adjustment. I also enjoyed the regular competition, as I got the chance to play more tournaments than in Jamaica.
ONcourt: You are one of the guys that is loved by everyone. What is it about you that attracts people to you?
Doug Burke: I’m not sure. I genuinely enjoy meeting different people, and I think I am accepting and not too judgemental. I’m also loyal. Maybe this has something to do with it.
ONcourt: Your son Brandon was a top ITF junior player, just won Rookie of the Year in the Ivy League. How was your relationship with him as a parent/player/coach? And what can you tell us that would help other parents in the same situation?
Doug Burke: It can get tricky and difficult to find a healthy balance, as many people know, when one has a child in competitive sport. I think it is important when the child is developing his or her tennis, that we find coaches that we trust to work with the child (even if the parent is a coach), to create some space, and the parent can observe from a distance. I have tried not to compare him too much to myself when I was playing, as conditions are very different now, and he is his own person. I think we should monitor to make sure the child continues to enjoy the game.
ONcourt: You gave your heart and soul to Jamaican tennis for eighteen years, how hurt are you by the way your departure from the association occurred?
Doug Burke: I was disappointed in the fact that I felt like I didn’t get the support of some of the leading senior players who I’d done a lot with in Davis Cup etc, and felt like I had played a significant role in their development. The Jamaican Sporting Fraternity is used to athletes excelling, especially in track and field, so sometimes they have unrealistic expectations with the limited resources available.
ONcourt: Would this disappointment ever stop you from doing it again?
Doug Burke: No, it wouldn’t. I think I have been able to positively affect the lives of many young people (many of whom come from financially challenged situations) and help create opportunities for them. However, with the experience I have gained, I would do some things a bit differently.
ONcourt: Would you ever come back and contribute to Canadian tennis?
Doug Burke: Yes I would. Sometimes it is good to get a different perspective on things, and one can continue to assist Jamaica, which I will always love, from afar.