Written by: Pierre Lamarche
***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.***
Being a disgruntled old bear [to some people], mixing up the seasons is nothing out of the ordinary for me. I went into hibernation of sorts since last April when my alter ego, Pierre Lamarche passed over the day to day leadership of the ACE Tennis organization to former ATP player and Jamaican national coach, Douglas Burke. Something funny happened to Pierre Lamarche, everywhere he went people wished him well on his retirement. Actually, although I did not tell him, he is a sensitive type of chap, some people were really happy they would not have to deal with his in your face type of attitude. Me, the Bear, I was confused so I decided to lay low and see what would transpire during the summer period and I even made a statement that my days questioning the policies and decisions of the all mighty Tennis Canada would cease.
Five months later, I can tell you Pierre Lamarche is not retiring just reinventing his way of pursuing what his burning passion always has been: developing Canadian tennis players and the Canadian game. Lamarche has taken over as the President of All-Canadian Sports Management the parent company for ACE Tennis, Toronto Tennis City and ONcourt. A debilitating back injury, due to trying to exercise, to rejuvenate his sagging body kept him this past summer from what he loves doing most: coaching the kids. This forced hiatus was an enlightening opportunity to come to terms with many life issues. For the first time he thought of getting old [what a horrible waste of energy thinking of it] and then realised that this horrible thought, because you do get old when you start thinking about it, was due to his injury and his time away from the kids he worked every day with. Next week Lamarche is back on court five mornings a week and he already feels younger.
Our hibernation from the courts was not a sabbatical from tennis, what a summer, here are some highlights:
- The Olympics, what an unfortunate double edge sword: Yes, the Olympics are an unbelievable sporting and cultural event but every four years, the Olympic year, we should have a year with 13 months or else tennis, the fans and the players get shafted. Was there a tournament in Montreal this year? Toronto did not happen because of the rain. You could not follow tennis on television at the Olympics or the Rogers in Montreal and Toronto. Television was all over the place, I got so frustrated I stopped watching. No offense, but watching the equestrian competition and wondering if coaching in the sport is related to the energy system of the horse or rider is not a good substitute for my tennis fix. It was so bad I actually felt sorry for Tennis Canada and its entire staff who work so hard to make these events some of the best in the world. The schedule was so demanding players got injured, withdrew or showed up and basically went into the tank. You can’t really blame them, the schedule was brutal. We can even see the after effect at the US Open.
- Interest in Canadian tennis was HIGH: the ascension of Milos Roanic was an unbelievable windfall for the popularity of the sport in this country. Tennis Canada’s ad campaign for progressive tennis with Milos was first class. The “I am Milos” campaign for the Rogers was lame. The Wimbledon victories for Peliwo and Bouchard were great achievements. My favourite moment was Daniel Nestor’s Wimbledon win in doubles. What a shame that such a great athlete receives so little recognition. He is an icon of the sport.
- The Canadian junior schedule and rankings under scrutiny: Nothing moves fast at the national or provincial policy level. Everyone knows the Canadian ranking system and the scheduling of Junior Nationals in mid summer is detrimental to the development of the junior players. Three years later, after meetings across the country to confirm what everyone knew and what Tennis Canada should have known, plans are being formulated to revamp the rankings and the schedule. Too bad we did not discuss these issues before implementing the present policies; we could have saved a lot of time, money and energy. At least something is being done.
- Interesting questions asked to Pierre and myself…by the way why does everybody [and there are lots of them] when they talk to Pierre and congratulate him on his questioning of issues, lower their voice and look over their shoulder?
- Is Andy Murray a product of the English system? If he is why have they not produced other players in the top 100?
- If Milos Roanic is a product of the Canadian system why are there no other players in the top 100?
- How many of the men’s world’s top 50 players come from national programs versus academies and private coaches?
- If the US National Team training system [like Tennis Canada’s] is so good, why are there no top young US women players on the tour?
- More interesting, have you noticed how many top women players from Eastern European countries have been developed in US academies and clubs with Academy and club coaches?
- Is it fair for the players of provinces with no clay courts to play the national championships on clay courts?
- Why is there no national level tennis players from 6 out of ten provinces, when the Canadian Olympic team has athletes of international level from all provinces?
- Are red clay courts really different? Do they make a difference in player development?
- Why don’t we have red clay courts in Canada if it’s important?
- What happened to Rebecca Marino?
- Is Milos Roanic the real thing? [see next article]
God it’s great to be back, Pierre is excited, new red clay courts in Toronto, new slow “ACE Wicked Orange” courts in Burlington, great staff, great players, back on court, life is as it should be, young again.