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.***
Solutions: Part 1
Teamwork is “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole”.
So, we have opted out of a system which creates dissension, let’s now create one which promotes inclusiveness, teamwork and support of the players while also pursuing our goal of developing world class players.
How do you develop teamwork amongst competing players? Here is a possible alternative: first you have an objective that everyone can buy into. For example, the objective could be as simple as representing Canada at the highest level of performance in international competition. Every player that is Under 14 that plays competitive tournaments and is committed to a systematic training approach should feel he has a chance, even if it is an outside one of fulfilling his dream. No one should tell him he can’t make it and no one should develop a system that says you are not good enough to reach your dream.
The system can be designed very simply: as soon as you play competitive events you become part of the Team Canada system, you are on the radar, you receive a periodic newsletter on events, news, training information, opportunities etc. You have a competitive system which basically chooses 75% of the players for special opportunities [two or three yearly regrouping camps]. The other 25% are subjective selections by national coaches based on established parameters [i.e. age, tennis age, physical profile etc]. The re-groupings are national coach led assisted by private sector coaches of the selected players. Evaluations, guidance and directives are provided to the coach attending and all other coaches in the Team Canada [U14 system].
That way everyone is on the same page, players feel the national and personal coaches are on the same page, we create unity, positive synergy and everyone pulls in the same direction. We then provide competitive opportunities to all players. Based on performance 75% to 100% of the traveling team is selected. 25% of selections are up to the discretion of national coaches based again on established and published parameters. Those not selected for a specific touring opportunity are provided with domestic competitive opportunities which provide rewards in the form of future consideration for touring opportunities. Everyone gets the feeling they get a chance.
If the touring players succeed and you have just been beaten out of the touring squad, you know that if you work hard you will get a chance to integrate the successful team. Now you are pulling for them to achieve success because you know that once you make the touring team you will be part of the world elite. This concept was basic to the philosophy of the Australian teams of the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as to the one found in US college tennis. The thought process is simple and goes as follows: “My friend Ben just got to the finals of les Petites As and I know I am almost as good as him, wait till next time, that will be me in the finals.”
So now we have given the feeling and the opportunity to the players to follow their dreams, we have gotten the private and public sector coaches to work together, the parents are not torn between one system or the other. Wow, how can this situation not be a better option?
But wait, not only is it a better option from an energy standpoint. It reaches more players, builds respect and cooperation between the coaches, casts a wider net to catch your future stars and is a more cost efficient system. Seems like a plan to me.