***For Immediate release: ***
OC: The Ezine has not been published in almost a year, what has happened to ONcourt?
PL: It’s a long story. Last year in March I was on my surfing pilgrimage in the Dominican Republic with my friend Marcus Bohm who owns the International Event “Master of the Ocean” in Cabarate and the 3-2-1 Take Off Surfing school in Encuentro. This was the second time in as many years that I decided to walk away from my day to day commitments to see if I could get some clarity in my life and insure that the rest of it would be lived to the maximum. It was very similar to a spiritual retreat but a little more fun. The result is usually answers to some issues and a new commitment to living life at its fullest.
ONcourt had been a great vehicle on different occasions to voice opinions and ask questions which eventually lead to some positive changes in the overall direction of Canadian tennis. This occurred in the late 1980’s when a series of editorials led to an overall positive evaluation and change of the Canadian tennis system. The new ezine version of ONcourt in the 2000’s continued its investigating and questioning approach of Canadian Tennis Development as well as the promotion of Canadian tennis. The results were quite interesting with many readers supporting the questions raised in the editorials as they felt they could not do so themselves. Even more interesting was the approach taken by those who felt threatened by the opinions that were outlined. Ignoring the content of the editorials and making the behind the scene rebuttals personal created a very acrimonious relationship between all parties involved.
My true belief is that the future of Canadian Tennis lies in a close partnership and cooperation between the private and public sector. This concept became difficult as the result of the schism that I had helped create with these prodding editorials. One of my new resolutions from this trip was to withdraw from confrontational situations. I hoped that the newly created leadership of Tennis Canada would do its due diligence and evaluate all components of the organization. Of great interest was the fact that Kelly Murumets, the new CEO of Tennis Canada advocated the philosophy of cooperation between the private and public sector as the key to success in developing sport in this country. Let’s see what transpires.
My beliefs are still the same, I have only decided to step away to give tennis and its various constituents room to negotiate an approach which serves all of tennis better in our country. My opinions are clear and well documented, my personality deters from the process so I have taken a back seat and decided not to publish any further editorials which might impede the process of developing the best system for our country.
OC: So what about ONcourt’s future?
PL: Right now, I am in a very transitional period in my life. I have a great partner and friend in Doug Burke who is now president of ACE Tennis and who is supported by a great team of coaches and human resources. I have taken on the leadership of ACE REPLAY [see article] which is a fantastic worldwide project with many good personal friends. All Canadian is close to developing a new Training Center in Toronto and we have interests in Water Sports. In addition, I also train a half dozen kids which remains my passion. All of this, plus my three kids, a new hip and some heart plumbing issues does not leave much time for ONcourt.
Having said that, ONcourt is something that I am passionate about and which I feel fulfills a need for Canadian tennis. I would like for the magazine to become somewhat more national although Ontario is the center of tennis in Canada. The next few months will lead to an evaluation of how we can best proceed without creating the backlash created in the last few years. I hope to find an answer where ONcourt can fulfill its original mission statement:
Mission Statement of ONcourt Ezine
1. To develop a Canadian tennis information warehouse
2. To help develop a sense of pride among the Canadian tennis community
3. To help develop a sense of supportive open family within the tennis community
4. To develop an interactive communication vehicle which covers all aspects of the Canadian tennis scene
5. To help create a major marketing tool for tennis in Canada
6. To become a major partner in the raising of monies for tennis development in this country
OC: We cannot let you go without asking your views on the present state of Canadian Tennis?
PL: We truly are at the crossroads for the future of the sport. We will never get a better opportunity to develop the proper infrastructure for the sport in this country. The interest created by Raonic and Bouchard’s performances provides us with political, social, economic opportunities which might never present themselves again.
On the other hand if we foolishly justify the performances of these players on “Our Canadian Tennis System” we will sell out the future of the sport in this country. Tennis Canada has been instrumental in insuring that these two gifted individuals have received every opportunity to succeed. No one can dispute this. But the reality is they are used to represent the system, while never really having been part of the system that is advocated.
The above opinion is what creates such antagonism among the different constituents of the Canadian tennis Development system. Talks are underway to address these concerns and for that reason alone Tennis Canada and it’s leadership must be lauded for going down a road which was taboo in the previous administration.
My concern is deeper than performance; it’s about participation and the position of tennis in the Canadian sport hierarchy. Performances, titles, press coverage are fantastic but they only create the opportunity to make things happen. The tennis industry is struggling big time in Canada. The number of private facilities that have closed in Quebec is of epidemic proportion. The same is occurring in Ontario. New facilities have been built in the Atlantic provinces but they are struggling as the required infrastructure is not in place. The future of tennis in Canada will only be assured if the new leadership can use the present surge in popularity to create a strategy with the private and public sector to develop a multitude of “Cluster” centres around the country. These centres will provide year round tennis for communities at affordable prices. This can be achieved by using all of the financial benefits accrued from such a partnership.