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.***
This past week I received no less than five calls asking me if I had heard of the new Milos Raonic who was all of four years old and who lived in Burlington, where I reside part of the week. I finally had to stop the project I was working on so I could insure that my coaches at ACE Burlington would get on the case and sign this player to a long term contract.
I must admit that I was convinced that no such person existed, as I knew that it is impossible to predict the path of a four year old. Even if he did exist would the parents not take him to our ACE school, one of the best tennis schools in the country?
I had to follow up on this when I saw that the news clip claimed that the child had been signed by Tennis Canada: click here for the video.
I am quite often critical of Tennis Canada policies in the area of player development, especially as it relates to younger players, but this was completely insane. Here was a reporter from a major television station reporting on this phenom and his signing by Tennis Canada. Finally, Tennis Canada had gone over the edge.
I then got more phone calls as the father had requested to do interviews at our host club in Burlington, Cedar Springs. I could see ACE Tennis being drawn into this promotional ploy so I phoned my friends Kartik Vyas, the OTA provincial coach and Ari Novick, Tennis Canada’s director of coaching who told me they had never heard of the boy. [No more going over the edge].
It became obvious that this was a misguided approach by a parent to promote his four year old son. We made sure as the OTA and Tennis Canada did, to distance ourselves [ACE Tennis] from this exploitation of a youngster. We recommended to Cedar Springs the same line of conduct.
What is a shame is that many people who read the article in the Star or saw the video clip on TV actually believed it to be true and quite simply did not see how negative this type of promotional “sleight of hand” could hurt the kid himself in the long term.
Sport is a great vehicle for the development of excellence in youngsters. Tennis has been recognised as the sport which espouses most the values that parents want in their children. This misguided attempt at self promotion hurt the kid and the sport. “Leave the kids alone”.