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.***
My ongoing concerns with Tennis Canada’s National Center based approach to player development recently reached a level which is forcing me to revisit the subject in the hope to communicate more clearly my reasons for this opposition, while also providing some alternatives which can be evaluated by all.
I was told recently by a good friend at Tennis Canada, while discussing a subject related to Canadian Tennis Player Development, “the system is not going to change,” and that I should just accept it. Others had said this comment to me as well. So what do I do if I really feel that this system is negative to the overall development of the sport in this country and affects the lives of our coaches, players and families? Of course I must try to do something.
So I have decided on the following:
- To write a series of editorials that will systematically show the flaws and unfairness of the present system
- To pursue a process where the will of players, coaches, academies and parents are put forth in a systematic manner which will require for them to be addressed – click here for chart
I will go through this process while trying not to attack any individuals representing Tennis Canada but to certainly point out the flaws of the system they defend. All of these editorials will be the work of myself, Pierre Lamarche, a Tennis Canada Hall of Fame member, a Rogers Hall of Fame member, a Canadian Davis Cup Team member as a player and captain, a Fed Cup Captain, the former Director of Coaching at Tennis Canada, the former National Head Coach, a former national junior champion Under 18 and National Men’s champion.
I must disclose that I am the president of All-Canadian Sport Management Inc. which operates in Ontario and owns ACE Tennis which is an academy currently delivering programs in Burlington and Toronto and owns a club in Toronto [Toronto Tennis City]. We are members of the OTA, operate over 50 tournaments per year, have over 400 kids and their families involved in our training programs, as well as OTA members who play in OTA leagues. We provide our facilities for tournaments and our coaches to act as provincial coaches at various national events.
We also employ over 15 certified Tennis Canada coaches. We are a Gold designated Tennis Development Centers at both locations in Burlington and Toronto, two of three in Ontario. The responsibility we have to our tennis family, our staff, the coaches, their families, our players, their families and our members make it imperative that we act responsibly to ensure fairness in policies and systems which affect the development of the sport in our province and country. Should I just keep quiet or do I have an obligation to try and effect change, which could be positive for everyone and for the sport? Would you not do the same for your family?
My decision is pretty easy. Years ago, in the early 1990’s I was part of a group of coaches from all sports that helped develop the Canadian Professional Coaches Association Coaching Code of Ethics, Principles and Ethical Standards. This document forms the basis of proper principles and behaviours for the coaching profession of which, first and foremost, I am a part. I feel many of the principles enunciated in this document are jeopardized by the present policies of player development in Canada. Some of these principles are:
- Coaches should not make participants more or less worthy as others based on athletic potential. Is identifying 8- and 9-year-olds as more worthy than others through providing exclusive opportunities to those identified contrary to this principle? How do the other kids feel?
- Have a responsibility to promote the rights of all participants, fair and reasonable treatment and promote the rights of participants who are in vulnerable or dependent positions and less able to protect their rights. If not initially selected for national centers, or not willing to attend the national center, you cannot, in most instances, access competitive financial support available to players of the same level at national centers. Fair?
- Build mutual support amongst fellow coaches. How many private coaches are against the present system? Many are afraid to speak out but many have. Dissent rather than team effort.
- Do not condone, ignore, facilitate or collaborate with any form of unjust discrimination in sport. If as a 14-year-old you are not in the system, the only way you can integrate into the system [i.e. receive money] is to have international results. How can a family who cannot even afford the required training afford the cost of a 14-year-old girl traveling the world to get international results? Discriminatory of course.
- Act to prevent or correct practices that are unjustly discriminatory. Should we as coaches stand by or do we have an obligation to do something? The answer is obvious.
- The opinions and wishes of participants when making decisions that affect them. If a player wants to stay with his long time coach should he not be able to do so and access the same services and benefits of someone who is with a designated national coach?
- Encourage a climate of mutual support among all participants in sport. Do you want a list of players, parents, coaches that are against this system?
- Act toward other coaches in a manner characterized by courtesy, good faith and respect. How many players or parents have been approached by Tennis Canada staff that have never talked or communicated with the private coach who invested years in developing the player?
- Notify other coaches when working with those coaches’ athletes. Most coaches in the private sector know that this is not a reality.
- Avoid situations which might present a conflict of interest or reduce the ability to be objective. How about representing the interest of member clubs, players, academies and coaches in player development at a provincial level while being a national coach and part of the national system? Make sure you understand this one. Or being a national coach, recruiting a kid to teach privately, taking away the child and livelihood of a private sector coach, while having a subsidised court costs and the lure of possibly integrating a subsidised national program?
- Honour all promises and commitments both verbal and written. I can only tell you that this has not been the case in my dealings with the system and I was even told by a high executive of Tennis Canada, “well, Pierre, you know things change”.
So I want to effect changes, and I can only do so by proceeding in a systematic calculating manner, which will show the flaws of the system and the resulting negative fallout. Also, to effect change we must get all those affected, especially the coaches in the private sector to endorse these changes, which will bring about the pressure required for change.
We only have one formal avenue and that is for Ontario Tennis to defend and promote the wishes of their players, coaches, academies and clubs. The academies of Ontario represent the majority of player development activity in Ontario. Millions are invested in facilities, human resources and scholarships by the private sector but yet they do not have a voice on the executive of the OTA. How can the rights of players, coaches and academies be properly put forth in the dominating Canadian province without the voice of those that do the work and invest their time and money? Having a development position on the OTA executive committee is a great step forward as long as that position represents the will of the constituents and is filled by someone who represents the players, coaches and academies of Ontario. Should a national coach or a representative of the constituents fill that position?
This is why I propose that we establish an Ontario Tennis Coaching Commission made up of coaches who help develop the structure, players and programs of Canada’s most successful tennis development province. Hopefully this group can influence the organisation that represents them (the OTA) which helps us grow the game even more. Once Ontario steps up, the rest of the members of the Council of Provinces will get the leadership they require to make tennis the sport it should be in this country.
Coaches, please contact me if you would like to be part of this new group, which will lobby for justice and teamwork in our small tennis world. See attached outline.