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Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “About National Training Centres”

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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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Hockey, football, soccer, basketball and baseball DON’T DO IT; but SOME tennis federations DO…

The biggest debate at this moment in tennis development in this country is the role that Tennis Canada plays in operating its own subsidised training program in competition with the private sector schools and academies.

There are many ways of looking at and discussing this issue:

1. Is the development of the sport better served through major investment in player development [better players] or infrastructure [more players and courts]?

2. Is it proper for Tennis Canada to use public funds to compete with the private sector?

3. Is it proper to discriminate against players opting out of the Tennis Canada program for various reasons?

4. Should all Canadian players, regardless of where they train, have the opportunity to be assisted by Tennis Canada in international competitive opportunities if they deserve it?

5. Are the training programs any better at the National Centers?

6. Are the coaches better at the National Centers and where do they come from?

7. How successful [results] have the training programs at the national center in the last six years been, especially considering the money spent?

8. Why don’t other sports pursue the same initiatives of having a national center?

9. Is this what is right for the children, the coaches and the game in this country?

10. If it is, why is there so much dissent and unhappiness with players, coaches and parents?

11. What do other countries do?

12. How many top players in the world come from national training centres?

This week we will start publishing correspondence which shows the polarisation created by the concept of national training centers in the US [see the Wayne Bryan article]. The creation of national centers basically implies that the programs, or the coaches in the private sector are not good enough to create the players of the future, as they have for decades. You must admit there is certain arrogance present when paid administrators and volunteers think they can do it better than the people in the field who have had a past history of success.

My biggest point of disagreement with Tennis Canada is that a country such as ours with very limited resources should be concentrating on recruiting youngsters to the game of a lifetime by developing more facilities accessible at a more affordable cost to families. We should not be investing in the pursuit of the “Holy Saviour”, but investing in the game and youth of our country. That is how we should maximise our resources.

The reason I am so adamant about this is that this route of National Centres has been followed by Britain and the US with disastrous results, especially, when you consider the money invested in this self serving initiative. These countries have 10 times more the financial resources of Tennis Canada due to their ownership of a Grand Slam event and they have failed.

How much money? Look at the following information from the 2010 Form 990 filed with the IRS by USTA Player Development Incorporated as it relates to the salaries of the USTA player development coaches:

“Patrick McEnroe’s 2010 USTA Player Development salary was $809,480. He received $237,581 of other compensation from related organizations.

Jose Higueras $386,629 + 83,155
Tom Jacobs $272,737 + 108,720
Martin Blackman $273,028 + 90,687
Ola Malmquist $185,757 + 70,529
Ricardo Acuna $145,818 +43,390
Michael Sell $134,760 + 17,250
Jay Berger $189,415 + 62,509

Including those listed above, USTA Player Development employed 22 people with reported compensation above $100,000 in 2010.

If the US can afford to spend the above amounts on staff alone, then they must be able to attract who they consider the best coaches and they still are failing. What are the chances we will succeed here in Canada? Tennis Canada likes for us to think they have succeeded because of Milos Raonic. So why has the US with more and better resources [human and financial] not produced a player of Raonic’s calibre? Simply, because Raonic’s success is not due to his development at the Montreal center. It helped, but it is not the cause.

Think about it, Milos Raonic went to the National Training Centre in Montreal after High School and after being coached by Casey Curtis at clubs in Toronto. Louis Borfiga and Guillaume Marx, the coaches at the Center in Montreal, were smart enough to talk him into trying the pros rather than University and to develop his game on clay. This development could have been done anywhere as it’s been done for the last years in Spain. No offense, but the training centre in Montreal will develop another Raonic, only when they find a 6 foot 5 inches kid with the biggest powerful kick serve in the world. I helped develop Daniel Nestor into a world class player over 20 years ago. I have not succeeded in doing it again, although I am a better coach now, simply because I have not found a competitive, tough, talented, sweet hands, long limbed 6’3” Serb capable of dropping his corkscrew serve on a dime and making it move in all kinds of different ways.

The article by a respected coach Wayne Bryan questioning the direction and leadership of the USTA, also published this week, has gone viral in the US. There is something wrong in our society when we are told what to do by administrators and volunteers who have no data to substantiate their views and their wasting of public funds. The situation in the US is not very different than what is happening here in Canada, except they have ten times more money.

Tennis Canada should get back into doing what they do best: run events, make money, provide support for those deserving, grow the game by growing the numbers and the facilities. Then we can become family again.

A New Reality By Nicolas Pereira

This past week in the World Team Tennis ‘Bubble” I have seen the efforts to keep everyone safe while carrying on a team competition with around 60/70 players and coaches onsite. Counting organizers, officials, media, and support personnel are around 150 people trying hard to make this happen. I am very impressed by how the strict protocol has been handled and how everyone is invested in making this event a success, but The Open is a completely different scale of details.

ONcourt Interviews NGTL Co-Founder Yves Boulais

It does not matter that you get your rating playing locally or that you had spent an insidious amount of money playing the ITF junior tour tournaments. Your rating is your level of play (you get no bonus for playing more or playing far away). This allows us to break free of the ITF competitive structure potentially saving us time, money, and headache. We see this as a great opportunity to improve the logistic of our sport.

Brandon Burke (son of ACE President Doug Burke) Elected to WTA Board

As revealed in a recent news release issued by the WTA Tour – Brandon Burke has been elected to the WTA Board of Directors (to start officially in September). Oncourt got together with Brandon to delve a bit more into his background and to gain some insight into this wonderful appointment he has attained at such a young age.