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 best documents prepared by Tennis Canada in the last ten years is the glossy, well prepared, well outlined project called The Long Term Athlete Development [LTAD] Plan for Tennis in Canada. This scientifically based document provides the base principles to be respected in developing athletes in the sport through Tennis Canada’s strategic plan.
Now you must understand, and this is only to assure you that I know what I am advancing, that Pierre Lamarche, my alter ego, was the leader of the project entitled The Stages of Growth and Development in the late 1980’s which lead to the development of the successful Tennis Canada plan entitled Baseline to Excellence in 1988. The document was so revolutionary in tennis that Lamarche presented the principles in over six international ITF Coaches Conferences.
Recently Lamarche presented the new LTAD in Taiwan to their coaches and their federation. In doing his research he realised why he has been adamant about his criticism of the present strategic plan of Tennis Canada: It does not respect some of the principles of the LTAD. Let me give you one flagrant example of the violation of one of the major pillars of long term athlete development, the importance of long term development versus short term performance. Simple enough to understand: when developing players make decisions based on what is right for them in the long term rather than concentrating on short term performances. This principle is especially true the younger the athletes are. In other word the tactical, technical, mental and physical development of the athlete is always done in function of what will provide him the best chance to maximize their future potential. To simplify what I am saying, you teach a child, the proper progression including the awkward continental grip on the serve. After practicing and learning he might be lucky to get the required 8 out of 10. This method will allow for the proper biomechanics to develop and provide a foundation for maximum future potential. The other player interested in short term performance might use a pan handle grip on the serve and succeed in putting 10 out of 10 serves but his future improvement will be limited due to the constraints brought about by his biomechanics.
Now think if you have a system as we do in Canada, where players are identified through performance mostly to achieve invitations to national regroupings, international travel and funding, what would you do if you were a parent and in many cases the coach of the player? You would do everything possible to make him perform as a 9-year-old so he can identified and received the benefits of the system. So basically what you have here is parents and coaches completely disregarding the principles of long term development so that they can reap the rewards of the system. In this case the system is what makes the players, parents and coaches make decisions which are detrimental to the player. THIS IS WHAT THE PRESENT SYSTEM PROMOTES AT THE DETRIMENT OF THE PLAYER AND AGAINST IT’S OWN STATED PRINCIPLES. If you are a coach like me who was involved in the Development of the Code of Ethics for the Coaching Profession in Canada I am required to speak out against something which I know affects the development of young players in tennis. If I don’t I do not respect my own professional Code of Ethics.
Many tell me that my comments are personal, which of course I believe is a cop out for those who cannot intellectually discuss the concerns brought forth. Look at the above rationale, it is not personal, it is critical, it is factual and should be discussed.
Another basic principle of child development [Bloom] is the need for developing youngsters to have one voice [one coach] who leads them in various stages of their careers. This concept expands into a team support [still with one leader] as the player matures. Presently there is MAJOR dissatisfaction in Quebec and Ontario with young identified children receiving conflicting information on a weekly basis from the national salaried center coach who provides the coaching services at no cost versus the personal coach who must make a living and charge a fee. Since often there is recruiting pressures going on, this scenario always ends up badly, creates confusion in the player and parents, and resentment from the personal coach and academies. Again the system does not respect the principles stated by Tennis Canada in the LTAD. This is not personal but a statement of facts.
On this weekend’s Davis Cup:
This is the most important tie in Canadian tennis history. On paper Milos should win two matches, the Spaniards the other two singles leaving it up to the doubles. Spain has a great doubles team while Canada has a great doubles player.
Watching the national regrouping at York yesterday under the guidance of Bob Brett, I reflected on what I would have done to prepare for this tie. I would have had Bob Brett in Vancouver, counting on his vast experience for information, using his image to let the Spaniards know that we were coming after them. I also would have, at the price of many internal discussions, hired the best doubles coach in the world, Louis Cayer, to come back home for a week [whatever the costs] to prepare Canada’s double team for the most important match in the history of Canadian tennis.
Marty is a great captain, the four guys on the team are great, let’s cheer them on and hope they write history for us.