Yves Boulais has a solid track record in juniors tennis development and professional international coaching, he has represented Canada as a coach in both the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics and serves as Fedcup Captain year 1998 through 2000. He has helped many players on the WTA and ATP tours rise to the top of their careers. Currently director of tennis at the Ontario Racquet Club in Oakville, Ontario.
OnCourt: Welcome Yves! So first off, what made you decide to start such an initiative?
Yves Boulais: After being forced to sit down for a few weeks, Mike Hall and I started to feel a little concerned about the future of our sport, the competition, the players, and the programs, etc.
Before the pandemic, we were already struggling to organize trips abroad to get those precious ITF points and development experiences for our young performance players. The economic cost, logistics, missing school, and finding the proper coach was always difficult to manage and always in the way of making it happen.
We now have the UTR rating system which allows everyone that competes anywhere the possibility to have valid international exposure. It does not matter that you get your rating playing locally or that you had spent an insidious amount of money playing the ITF junior tour tournaments. Your rating is your level of play (you get no bonus for playing more or playing far away). This allows us to break free of the ITF competitive structure potentially saving us time, money, and headache. We see this as a great opportunity to improve the logistic of our sport.
In Canada, we have indoor facilities that during downtime have low occupancy. We have graduate college players that are just fresh out of the competitive scene that provided the right opportunity for them and they would love to stay in the game. We have eager junior players that are thirsty for fun and competition. We have supportive parents that want to provide the best opportunity for their children. We have local businesses that want to be known by the locals and would love to participate in their communities. We have upbeat coaches that want to work and help that would love to use their skills in a team environment.
If we eliminate the traveling option, we realized that with UTR we have everything we need right here, right now locally! But, we need to do a better job of organizing it…
OnCourt: Wow, it sounds like an interesting opportunity…
Yves Boulais: We are strong believers that there is a better way to deliver tennis. Top juniors need competition to keep progressing and to do it locally we are providing cash incentives to former college players, and transitional pros to play in our league.
Most juniors will end up going to college and in the current format, they play a very stale pro tournament style with barely anyone watching. We decided that our tennis league should be fun, exciting and entertaining. The college format creates a far better atmosphere for everyone involved.
OnCourt: What are some of the benefits of playing in the Next Gen Tennis League?
Yves Boulais: Playing tennis tournaments means that the whole family is hijacked for the whole weekend or the week. Our league plays once a week always at the same time. The family is free to have a normal life while one of their kids enjoy playing tennis. We also plan to Livestream the matches and save all of the matches to the player profile. This will create a very strong profile for players who are aspiring to achieve an NCAA scholarship.
To provide good competition for everyone and not playing always the same people – our premier league has no age or gender categories, you are selected by your UTR rating. As long as you are 13 years (in 2020) and older, you are eligible to register.
All the club facilities will be within driving distance and all within the GTA. For the parents, there are no overnight hotels and dining out which in turn saves them money.
Remember at the end of the day, the college coaches want to know if you can play and at what level, be a decent person, and a good team player. With NGTL and UTR, you can do this near your home.
OnCourt: Where are you currently with the NGTL?
Yves Boulais: In Toronto, we have secured all our local team sponsors. We have our website and social media up and running. We are in the middle of registration and have top marquee players registered. We have most of the head coaches and we are in the process of hiring the referees. The registration deadline is fast approaching. Once registration is done, we will have a draft day where the head coaches and team owners will get together to draft the best possible team amongst the players registered. We have secured space with the Ontario Racquet Club in Mississauga, as well as Cedar Springs Health Racquet and Sports Club in Burlington. We are working on finalizing our third location in the Toronto area.
OnCourt: What are the next steps for the NGTL?
Yves Boulais: We want to create many more leagues similar to this format. Different age groups, different locations, different cities, provinces, and potentially other countries. We realized that these are ambitious steps that we are putting forward but we feel that our kids, parents, and our tennis communities deserve it.
OnCourt: Yves, this sounds like a fantastic initiative and a great model for juniors aspiring for a college scholarship, as well as benefiting the former college players and pro players. Do you have anything else regarding the league?
Yves Boulais: To conclude we are very proud of what we have created with NGTL. The project requires a lot of work but we feel that for tennis to be successful locally we all need to do our part. The support from players, coaches, parents, local businesses, and tennis clubs have been fantastic. At this time I am hoping that more coaches and the tennis communities are on board to promote and spread the words.
We also have two upcoming Zoom meetings where players, coaches, and parents can learn more about the Next Gen Tennis League! The first one will be held on Tuesday, August 4 at 6 pm. The second will be held on Thursday, August 6 at noon. The Zoom code for both meetings is 289-888-2663. Hope to see you all there!