***Andre Lemaire, Robby Menard and Pierre Lamarche have been three of the most successful tennis coaches in Canada if you consider the number of national champions and the number of professional Canadian players developed in their academies. They have been also very successful in the business aspects of tennis, with their companies being major players in the landscape of Canadian tennis for over 20 years. These three coaches/managers also have a reputation to tell it like it is. We start a series of articles where we ask them their opinions on how to make tennis a major sport in our Canadian world as well as a presence on the international scene.***
Prologue: The Three Wise Monkeys, sometimes called the Three Mystic Apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action. In the Western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance.
ONcourt: The first question for you gentlemen is: “Is it possible for tennis to become a major sport in Canada?”
Pierre Lamarche: Anything is possible, but we have to look at the reality of the present situation. We have to identify the above issue as being of primary importance and we have to create solutions and strategies which address tennis’ present situation in the sport landscape in Canada. The answers must take into consideration the sports present and future available resources, as well as dealing with the constraints specific to our sport in our country.
Andre Lemaire: Yes. We need a player in the top 10 in the world. Milos Raonic is our best and shows the potential.
Robby Menard: It is possible, but very tough. We need to maximize resources on all levels.
ONcourt: For tennis to become a major sport in Canada what must happen?
Pierre Lamarche: Let’s assume that tennis is not a top ten sport in our country:
- In participation from Canadians
- In popularity with the general public
- In performance on the international scene
Then we can assume, we better have a big picture solution to the issue rather than addressing our performance on the international scene or having more people attend or watch the Rogers Canadian Open on TV.
The answer is actually simple. The strategy for the implementation of the solution is quite difficult and requires proper vision and commitment, a major paradigm shift in thinking by the national and provincial associations and an actual harnessing of all financial and human resources at our disposition.
A strategy for tennis to become a popular, affordable family participation sport in communities across the country through developing or upgrading seasonal community tennis facilities [4 courts], which can offer low cost Tennis Canada programs by certified Tennis Canada coaches, can result in a growth of popularity at the community level. This growth can be fuelled by Tennis Canada initiatives [such as progressive tennis, better exposure on television, better international performances] which create interest in the sport of a lifetime. This growth in popularity, on a seasonal level, can be translated into a community demand for an affordable year round option [bubble] developed with municipal, provincial and federal assistance in conjunction with not for profit or private sector groups.
The future international performance of Canadian players can be fostered through accessing talented youths in all Canadian communities [rather than like now in major cities, Toronto and Montreal area], and by creating a regional and provincial talent development infrastructure. Finally, the development of the infrastructure and the content of the development must be assured through Tennis Canada’s leadership [management, programming and coaching]. We must insure that all courts have the right surface [red clay] for player development, and that the infrastructure be supported by a proper competitive structure and ranking system which fosters participation.
Andre Lemaire: Pierre’s answers are pretty comprehensive so here is what I add. To become a major sport, Tennis Canada has to recognize the importance of more interactive systems. This will help enrich the Canadian development system for players.
Tennis Canada has to integrate different conclusions even if this means diversity and contrasts. Development is a dynamic system in constant evolution.
Robby Menard: First of all, we need to showcase Tennis at the top with more than just Raonic and Mariano. We need a lot of top players, so we can get more TV time with Canadians in majors tournaments.
Secondly, we need to have more and more tennis centers and accessible clubs with passionate leaders that have experience at all levels, THAT is: Coaching, Managing Talents and being a true leader for people. The access to the clubs and academies need to be affordable.
Finally, we need strong coaching. Coaching tennis seriously is a complicated profession. It requires full commitment to it, and it TAKES a lot of time to excel at it. You must be passionate and I feel too many guys are doing it just because it is easy money. We don’t have enough REAL professional coaches. There are many teaching pros out there, BUT very few real coaches. We need former great players that WANT to do this and become excellent at high performance coaching.
You need strong mentoring, getting top young coaches learning on a day to day basis from the experienced coaches and working with the top prospects.