Built to Last – Louis Cayer Thriving in the U.K

BY LARRY JUROVICH

Nothing like being in a different country…

There is an old saying “anyone with a briefcase in a different country is an expert”.  I have lived this experience firsthand.  I have worked full time in Ireland, the UK and China.  I have given conferences and workshops in an additional 10-12 countries.  When working abroad the reception you receive is that of an expert and all the respect that comes with that.  

Davis Cup Canada vs. Great Britain, 2017 (Ottawa), photo courtesy of Peter Figura

Is it possible that someone is better when they work away from home? Obviously, the answer is no.  Working away from home in itself could make you better as you are exposed to new things to learn from, but my point is that you are not better because you are ‘away’.  As someone who has worked all over the world – you can trust me on this.

I have been reflecting on this a lot recently – not because of my personal experiences, coming home after working for almost 15 years abroad, or with federations on tour. However, because of a good friend and Canadian coaching legend Louis Cayer, who recently received the status of Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) from the Queen of England.  Although he is also a Member of the Tennis Canada hall of fame, it never felt like he was respected as much at home as he clearly is in the U.K.

If you are too young to have trained or spent time with Louis while he worked in Canada, you missed out.  Louis is a member of the ITF Coaching Hall of Fame.  He has worked with countless world #1 doubles players and many top 100 singles players.  Louis invented his own coaching methodology that was the foundation of Canadian coach education for a generation.  His methodology or parts of it, are so normal and widespread now that most people do not even understand the entirety of his impact in coach development. 

Louis’ coaching accomplishments are so numerous I could not list them all, but if you are curious why he was given this honour in the U.K.  I would suggest he has this appointed status as during his years in the U.K he has coached 14 men that have reached the top 100 of the world, players he has worked with have won 13 Grand Slams – in 2021 alone he had every Grand Slam final!  

With his leadership there are currently 9 British players in the ATP top 80 of doubles which is the most out of any country in the world.  I am sure I have a bias, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Louis is one of the best tennis coaches to ever walk the planet.  Sometimes his achievements are marginalized by people because of ego or personal agendas but his ability to improve as a tennis player (that is our job!) is unrivaled.  

Do not be fooled by the fact that his resume tilts so much towards doubles players, Louis improves everyone in front of him.  Like many great actors he was typecast as a doubles coach – therefore so many opportunities for doubles work presented themself. However, he improved every singles player he ever worked with and undoubtedly would have the exact level of success in singles if that was where he chose to focus his energy. 

If you have not had the chance to see his work, find a way.  You and your players will be grateful you did.

Davis Cup Canada vs. Great Britain, 2017 (Ottawa), photo courtesy of Peter Figura

Is it possible that Louis is better because he works in the U.K. than when he worked in Canada? – of course not. What a shame he spent the last 17 years working in the U.K! 

It could be considered controversial to suggest such a thing when Canadian tennis has had its best professional results ever over the last number of years, but I personally would have loved to see the results of Canadian tennis with a homegrown coaching legend in charge. 

Jim Collins is one of my favorite authors. His books; Good to Great, Great by Choice, and Built to Last should be on everyone’s reading list.  When I accepted a leadership role at the L.T.A. in 2005 I decided to read Built to Last as the L.T.A. had a reputation for a lot of changes of leadership and underperforming.  I was hoping to learn some things that might help me make a lasting impact there instead of just being part of one of the many shifting regimes (I failed at that, but it does not mean I did not learn anything from the book!).

The book is a study of the top performing companies that have been in business for at least 50 years.  That means no Tesla, Google or even Microsoft.  It was more companies like 3M and GE.  The premise of the book was very interesting because they studied the top of the top (it has been years since I read it, but I remember it is the top 18) and then the next 18 showing even the worst company studied was in the top 36 companies over 50 years.  These were all great companies but what separated the truly great?

Collins & Parros found that in 1700 years of combined history of visionary companies, there were only 4 cases of an outsider being brought in for the role of CEO.  Visionary companies were 6 times more likely to promote insiders to chief executives than comparison companies.

One of the keys to long lasting success is to build your team and your leadership from within. I know they are talking specifically about C.E.O.’s but I believe the principle would apply to High Performance leaders as well.  

I will always wonder what a Canadian Player Development program, led by Louis Cayer would look like, with the budget Tennis Canada player development has had over the last 20 years.

(When Michael Downey started at Tennis Canada around 2005 he did a great job to improve the business and overall revenue leading to massive budget increases compared to the time Louis Cayer was in the country).

However, I am willing to bet that we would have had just as much success with our players and knowing him was probably a very systematic approach that also benefited Canadian coaches and clubs but I guess we will never know!

Our loss is Britain’s gain.

Congratulations Louis on your unbelievable career and much deserved honor.  As far as I can tell I still do not have to call you Sir!

 

 

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