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.***
Flaws: Part 1
dissension [dɪ’sɛnʃən] n
disagreement, especially when leading to a quarrel
Dissension is not a situation which is usually conducive to achieving success in any venture. So if the present Tennis Canada system does foster dissension we all must agree that a better solution should be found.
How does it create dissension amongst players? Well, let’s imagine your daughter does not get selected to a regrouping when she is 10 years old and her best friend who plays at the same club does. Her friend gets selected because she is smaller, faster and looks better. But your daughter is gangly, has played half the time, and is going through a growth spurt which makes her uncoordinated. Not only that, they are basically of the same level on the court. One gets access to the National Center system and the other does not.
Your child sees her friend who was her best hitting and training partner taken away from her three times a week for private lessons at the National Center, get other benefits and starts wondering what is wrong with her. She might even think of quitting because her best friend is not there, she actually resents her friend’s good fortune because she thinks it’s unjust. Is there a way of doing this talent ID better? Is the talent ID system valid? If not, what an injustice, no wonder it will lead to conflict.
“OK, it creates dissension with the players but how does it create conflict with the coaches?” Well your daughters friend’s coach, call him John, had been working with her for four years. Her parents were new to the country so John helped them out and charged her one lesson a week for the three he gave her. He took care of her as if she were family, spent a lot of time watching her develop, took coaching courses to better take care of her, raised money for her first trip to the nationals and simply was emotionally involved with this player. She had a great nationals, was spotted by a Tennis Canada coach, offered the opportunity to receive supposedly better services and better future opportunities and as a result her parents forced her to leave her coach for the National Center.
Private lessons, training and most importantly the promise of subsidised travel is a great lure for the parents. You can understand, how would you feel if you were John, after investing so much to have your project taken away from you without the National Center coaches ever contacting you. They [the National Center coaches] decided as a policy to communicate directly with the parents because they know the coach would not agree. So now they have created dissension with the private coach, as their behavior is unprofessional and helps foster a feeling of distrust between John and the parents. How does the kid feel in the middle of all this? You want to put your kid in this situation? But, then the National Center coaches will say that they are offering only a complementary program.
But the parents who pay at the National Training Center do not have any money for John’s lessons and training program. So John bites the bullet, teaches her for free, lets her play in the program for free. But then, John’s student shows up one day with a new serve. John loses it, especially when the national coach who makes the change does not communicate with him, and this same national coach used to be his assistant. Dissension to the tenth power.
Dissension with the parents is obvious, my child gets overlooked, I must choose between the coach that my kid loves and the money from the center, I must travel from Niagara to Toronto to be in the National Center program. Who is right? The national coach or the private coach? One says play the tournaments the other says don’t. The national coach says she needs a new serve implying the old one was not good. Who do I believe?
Dissension, mistrust, conflicts, this is good for a child’s development? There must be a better way.