Written by: Pierre ‘The Bear’ 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.***
One of the greatest ironies of our society is how we constantly face directives from public sector institutions and individuals who quite often do not have the experience, success or knowledge necessary to qualify for such a role. Even more disconcerting is the empowerment that comes from the position and which deafens them to any feedback from the people they are dictating to. It seems in tennis that unlike in Canada, where everything is perfect in the relationship between coaches, parents and players, there are huge problems in our neighbors to the south. I say unlike because except for my disgruntled old voice, I have been told by Tennis Canada staff that their system does not have those authoritarian slants, and that the majority is happy. But when I read some of the issues in the US, I wonder if it’s because they are further along the route that Tennis Canada is following, or simply because they are American and are not afraid to be outspoken.
The following is from Tim Mayotte, the former #7 ATP ranked player, silver medalist in Seoul and former National Coach for the USTA. He wonders about the dictatorial mandates of the US.
The USTA is forcing coaches and their players down a rigid and therefore ill-conceived path… It is yet another expression of the leaders of the USTA’s culture of rigidity and heavy-handedness. This pattern is alarming and has had, and will continue to have far-reaching negative consequences… Most tragically, when I and others seriously questioned “the Philosophy,” were informed that these questions were not welcome. I was forced to apologize for my curiosity. What was more upsetting was that these programs were put in place by coaches and managers who had never spent significant time developing juniors.
I wish this was only my experience. Sadly, many, many others have dealt with this approach inside and outside the organization. The consequences of this rigid thinking and implementation have been devastating and enormous. Five years later, and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars later, USTA PD has produced very few top prospects, fired many, many, coaches, alienated hundreds of others, and angered curious parents who are told to stay out of the process of their children’s development.
This mandate is just more of the same. This pattern of heavy-handedness and rigidity must end. (Ironically, when I was at the USTA, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, that required scores of man-hours, on a program called “Cultural Change.” We were “taught” how to become flexible and collaborate with our co-workers.)
Those at the USTA would do better by opening their minds and begin to understand at some point that doing something extremely well, getting kids on the right track, developing top players, is a delicate, complicated process that demands collaboration between players, coaches, parents, the industry and the USTA. They must also understand that Mandates do not help players, coaches, parents and tennis. We can all remain friends, but the best friendships and fullest kind of development, are built on dialogue, discussion and flexibility.
The Bear asks: “Does this sound familiar?”
- Culture of rigidity and heavy-handedness,
- These questions were not welcome,
- 5 years later, and tens of millions of dollars later, the USTA… has produced very few top prospects, fired many, many, coaches, alienated hundreds of others,
- Those at the USTA would do better by opening their minds,
- Developing top players, is a delicate, complicated process that demands collaboration between players, coaches, parents, the industry and the USTA.
This letter is from Robert Landsdorp, former coach of Davenport, Sampras, Sharapova and Austin:
Sorry, but I am just not smart enough to understand what all the USTA is doing to screw up the future of American tennis. You don’t need all this B.S. the USTA is feeding everybody. I can tell you quickly what kid has TALENT and then you develop the talent. Talented kids have great eye-hand coordination. Now you look how well they time the ball. Champions have great eye tracking ability. If there is a problem that is not caught at a very young age, there will always be a problem. Quickness. Some kids are born quick. Sampras did not need a physical fitness guy to be fast when he was little. HE WAS FAST. Some people are born slow at foot and I don’t care how much you make them run, they will never be as fast as Sampras or Nadal. However, if they are slower, you develop their game with more accurate power, like Davenport, Sharapova and Isner. Can you imagine these people having been developed by Higueras with a lot of Spanish high top spins? NO CHANCE. You don’t need all this USTA crap. You have to DEVELOP, something Patrick McEnroe and Higueras don’t know anything about. That is why they are coming up with all these gimmicks. The USTA should be a supporting kind of organization, helping coaches and parents. Instead of eliminating the coaches and parents who got them there. They just take all the credit. When are the people in this country going to wake up and get rid of the USTA Developing Fiasco. The sooner, the better. Don’t really need a bunch of egotistical wannabes. Some kids are physically talented, others are mentally talented. Bring these qualities together by DEVELOPING them, like Davenport, Sampras, Sharapova, Austin and every other great champion. The USTA Junior Development has been in business for almost 40 years and have NEVER DEVELOPED ONE (ONE) CHAMPION. My God, doesn’t that tell you enough!
Dr Ray Brown says:
I cannot get past this haunting sentence in Tim’s letter:
Most tragically, when I and others seriously questioned “the Philosophy,” were informed that these questions were not welcome. I was forced to apologize for my curiosity.
The implications of this one sentence are far reaching and foretell of a character flaw within the USTA PD program of the most egregious and despicable nature. This one sentence damns the PD program on a level that is beyond our imagination. The hubris necessary to require Tim to apologize for seeking the truth staggers the imagination and reveals a thoroughly un-American, despotic and self centered view of the world.
I cannot believe that the USTA Directors are willing to tolerate their good name to be dragged through the mud by subordinates having such disrespect for the fundamental values of this country.
Were these foreign nationals? If so, pull their work authorization cards and send them home. We have enough despicable characters that were born here to be inviting more from other countries.
If they are foreign nationals, get me their names.
The Bear says: “No wonder I love America thanks for the 60’s revolution, the questioning of authority, civil rights and the right to be heard.”