During the July school holiday break, Ignacio, our Head Coach at MCC Glen Iris went back his home country Argentina. Below is an account of some of his experiences.
Sometimes, hopefully not too often, we forget who are the people responsible for where we are, but going back to places where you learn your craft and find yourself in the environments where you grew up professionally is a great experience.
I left Argentina almost a decade ago but stayed in touch with coaches and players from my times there. Things have not changed too much when it comes to tournament structures, and recently I was asked by the AAT (Asociacion Argentina de Tenis, Argentinean tennis assoc.) and its coaching education body, to present with the topic of social comps in Australia; pennant in Victoria for adults and comps for junior players who could or could not be involved in JT tournaments. This concept is quite strange in many parts of Argentina.
First of all, Argentina is a great place to learn tennis and develop yourself as a good competitive player. This is because of the work ethics in many private academies where they focus on education opportunities, knowledge and have passionate coaches. The conditions also hardened you to play with bad balls on average courts. Except for the bad conditions and lack of new equipment, I tried all this time in Australia to impart this kind of discipline and a commitment to the sport that I was able to see there as player and coach.
The coach education facilitators in Argentina and experienced coaches running facilities were interested in the Australian competitive structures for social players. In Argentina, after turning 10 or 11 years old and leaving green ball coaching, the majority of kids, do not have enough skills or money to travel to national tournaments and they quit tennis if they do not become national level players.
That harsh bottleneck setup creates a big pressure on players to be really good quite early, and tennis is seen as an individual endeavor in which just a few will succeed. The costs impose the mental pressure of becoming a college player, having success as a coach or the ultimate goal of being an atp/wta pro. That tunnel vision allowed the country to produce players and a good coaching standard with not too many resources, but also has caused many junior players to quit the sport very early.
At this point, the country is having less and less players due to an economic crisis that has increased costs and they now see it is necessary to keep social players in the game. With that in mind, I presented the Tennis Victoria competition structure and our Waverley & District Association with all its many grades and options catering for different levels of age and skills. This highlighted to the Argentine authorities and coaches that an alternative competition system is possible and could create an opportunity for late bloomers and for people to stay in the game. And that is could also create revenue for clubs and coaching businesses. Sometimes we see other countries coming up with several players in the pros top 100 and we assume that they have more players or coaching is better. The famous “grass is greener” theory, but sometimes this surface success is a facade for a harsh reality. In this case, where people want to enjoy tennis as a game for life, it might not be the best place to be.
Australia has a great tradition of tennis, we enjoy a grand slam event each year in Melbourne and we have a fantastic culture of a team environment. In the several competitions, there is a large number of amateur tennis players to participate and we definitely have an easier life.
But countries like Argentina will keep producing professional athletes at a higher rate than us, as it is seen as a way to get ahead in life and is a matter of life or death. This philosophy is not necessarily healthy, but one we could learn something from in helping us produce competitive athletes. Balance is the key.
After 9 years abroad between Asia, Europe, and Australia, I cannot help but to try to find the ideal mix. A more defined culture of pathway to Pro or College in which our coaches can share a vision with players and be able to combine the social and friendly atmosphere with a more formal and professional oriented attitude towards our sport.
Tennis – the sport for life.
MCC Glen Iris Valley