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.***
We are publishing an article this week by Paul McNamee on a situation occurring in Australia which is common to many tennis countries where the National Association is bent on rewriting how tennis players are developed. These decisions affect basic principle of child development as it relates to teacher/young students [or player/coach relationships in tennis].
You must understand who Paul McNamee is:
- He is a former top 25 ATP singles player
- He is a former #1 ATP Doubles player
- He is a former Grand Slam Doubles Champion
- He is a two time member of Australia’s Davis Cup winning team
- He is the former Head of Tennis Australia
- He founded the Hopman Cup and acted as tournament director
- He acted as the tournament Director for the Australian Golf Championships
- He is a coach on the WTA tour
- HE IS THE REAL THING
So what he says has validity. Please make sure you read that article.
National Associations desire to control tennis development, comes from the poorly designed concept developed by the International Tennis Federation [the governing body of National Associations] to develop national and regional centers across the world. The ITF used to be the sole authority for tennis in the world. With the advent of professional tennis, their position in the world tennis landscape diminished greatly. They were left with Davis Cup and Fed Cup as well as the Slams, but make no mistake the ITF was no longer the power of tennis.
The well funded ITF turned its focus on tennis development. One of the basic assumptions made by the ITF was that coaches from poorer countries were incapable of developing top players, so they created ITF training centres all over the world. They hired their own coaches, assisted in developing centers and waited to see the results. The stories surrounding these centers could make up a book which could be seen as tragic or comic. For example the African Training Center was based in South Africa which made it impossible for anyone from the rest of Africa to attend. There has been numerous centers across the continent and the number of professional players developed in over 20 years at the center under ITF coaches is… I am still looking for one. Can you name any African continent players in the top 100? All these regrouping centers have accomplished zilch and we are copying the system. England and Australia have tried and still find themselves searching for answers. France which had success has now even adopted a more comprehensive, inclusive approach. Spain has basically abandoned the concept except for players who do not have an academy to train at or a proper personal coach. The new flag bearers of this ill conceived concept is the US, where everyone knows, millions have been wasted in the last ten years. Look at their [US] results on the ATP tour versus Canada with a player developed by his personal coach and parents, who called the national center his home for two years, when he was on the road more than 2/3 of the year, is ranked higher than any US player, is trained by a personal coach in Spain. Compare the US results to Serbia who has no national center. Need more proof?
These political exercises of creating centers, regrouping the players with better ITF coaches have been a complete failure worldwide. Yes some players have gone through them but the players that achieved success did so because they were provided with touring opportunities not because of the training environment or the player/coach relationship.
National associations [read Tennis Canada] decided to follow the flawed ITF model. In fact the man responsible for this Canadian strategy, Jack Graham from Halifax, is now a member of the ITF executive. Jack’s background is that he is a volunteer, former Chairman of the Board of Tennis Canada, who loves tennis and who is a lawyer by trade. Please compare his background to Paul McNamee and also research the number of great tennis players developed in his own province, Nova Scotia. Jack is a wonderful well meaning person who has the great political qualities to succeed in the political forum of volunteer associations. This does not make him an expert in child and player development.
Canadian coaches had a great reputation in the 1990’s and many are world leaders in the business of coaching. The new policies of Tennis Canada resulted in Canada’s top coaching brains being marginalised and replaced by foreign coaches and obedient young coaches with no history of success. I have no problem with foreign coaches and I believe Louis Borfiga and Guillaume Marx in Montreal are great additions to our Canadian scene. What I have problems with is how we have abused the basic player/coach relationship through the present system.
Most Canadian coaches feel the same way, but unlike me they do not have the benefit of not caring about the repercussions of their public comments. How can you create a great system and great players if the people in the trenches, the personal coaches, are not empowered to dream with their players? This is not nuclear science, it is basic common sense and scientifically proven.
Thanks Paul for articulating what coaches worldwide feel. Hopefully, these national associations with their well meaning volunteers and well remunerated national coaches [who of course agree with the idea] see the light and reinstate the old order where National coaches are there to supplement and support the personal coaches and their players rather than creating chaos and dissention by recruiting them.