Mark Gillett

Come back frequently……

Change or dont change….. But not half way.

with 2 comments

I read with interest the press on Britain latest Davis Cup mess and having spent so many years in an industry that us rife with politics, committees and general unwillingness to change it really leaves me wondering why there is so much surprise.

I work with change. How to make it, when to make it, what sort of change and and how to get where you want to be. However, there has to be a deep seated want if change is really going to happen. The whole reason one goes to a coach at the outset is to initiate change. If they go for any other reason e.g. its fashionable, then they are in the wrong place.

Back to the LTA and British tennis. I don’t believe there to be any real desire to change. Gradually over the last 25 years maybe longer there has been a steady decline in our depth of good players. Our system is just not adequate and I know because I have been part of it. Other bodies laugh at us. Nick Bolletieri says we have no chance. And I agree with them wholeheartedly.

Roger Draper has now been at the helm for 5 years, I think its now CEO, lovely! He made sweeping changes that made everyone think that ‘change’ was about to happen. But these were merely cosmetic. He changed one group of individuals with another. All competent people; those going out as well as those coming in, but it does not matter the level of competence if the core system is broken. A bit like getting a new train driver to drive the same broken steam engine.

The LTA has to change completely. One way would be to start from zero. Currently it is the wealthiest sporting body in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world. But you cannot buy standards in any performance sport. The Argentinians have no money and hundreds of players….

Starting from zero would be to get rid of all the committees or at least have them all agree to dissolve themselves, but of course this takes courage and a real willingness to change! Take away all the funding from players who are propped up artificially and would probably not be there if it was not for the funding.  Then disassociate from all of the traditional British tennis clubs.  This is probably the biggest area and most difficult decision but has to be made. They are the achilles heel of British Tennis and stuck in the dark ages. Of the 2500, around 2000 still do not open their doors. Then let passion drive the sport and find out who really wants to play tennis for the right reasons and which clubs want to open their doors to public players as in other successful tennis nations. There is a role for the LTA to organise a tournament structure that allows competition but right now that is about it.

The LTA is a great place to build careers and move on but it is not a place to build tennis players. It never will be until they initiate real change and that has to come from the top. Perhaps the real top at government level where it is decided who the governing body is.

We need to let players find themselves instead of thinking that the LTA can find players. It does not work like that and never will. Andy Murray and TIm Henman were nothing to do with the LTA in their development years. They did it alone.  It has to come from the person.

One day I am sure The LTA will have a leader strong enough to break the company up and let people go. Let the sport find itself again… But until then I am sure we are in for another change of make up fairly soon…

Written by markgillett

March 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

2 Responses

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  1. fighting talk big fella –

    so do you think change should evolve taking everyone on a journey, or are in a mood for a full revolution.

    do you think knowledge of tennis is a pre-requisite to run the LTA or are the challenges generic across all sports.


    March 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

  2. Hey! good to hear from you again… This time, I think its time for a revolution. The LTA has been at this for so long and never addressed the issues but just made cosmetic changes. Its a bit late for a journey I think…

    Generic and in a way, I think it might be useful to have a non tennis player in that seat. Roger is too much a political animal to ever be of any real use and make real change.


    March 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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