Sports Development is an area which though is not covered much when it comes to covering sports news despite the fact that any inspired or heartbreaking performance is a mere result of the work done there. We tried to follow the challenges related to the ITF development programs in the pacific & how the Tennis development team meets these, and we found no one better than the ITF Development Officer- Pacific Oceania, Darran Wrighton to guide us through.
Challenges ITF faces with respect to Tennis development in Pacific Oceania…
There are many challenges in this region. The 3 main ones are: distance between nations, expense of travel between nations and lack of structure within the Pacific for Tennis within each nation.
Key local issues…
In my opinion, the key local issue that is often raised is that there are expectations of “financial handouts” from outside funding prevalent as part of the culture within Pacific Oceania’s Tennis Federations. This leads to less effort by the nations to make the running of their federations financially sustainable and makes it hard to push tennis coaching as a viable career option for the region.
This sometimes leads to less effort by the nations to make the running of their federations financially sustainable and makes it hard to push tennis coaching as a viable career option for the region.
How impactful are the development programs compared to before?
I have been in the role for just over 2 years. In this time we have qualified 9 level 1 coaches and 1 level 2 coach, we have provided opportunities for over 10 Pacific Coaches to travel to Australia as part of Pacific touring teams. 6 of these coaches have attended the Australian Grand Slam Coaches’ conference. We now have 3 tours annually to Australia that presents over 30 players with opportunities to compete within the Australian competitive system, in particular playing in the Australian National Championships held in December at Melbourne Park (Home of the Australian Open).
There are opportunities for nations to up skill their federation staff / volunteers through the Oceania Sports Education Program, but nations do not utilize this as much as they could do.
When I started the position 3 to 4 players had a junior world ranking and now up to 15 players have held a junior world ranking over the 2 years I have been in the position.
The projects that the ITF part funds through Grand Slam Development Fund has undoubtedly lifted the profile of the fame in the region and improved the development of the game in the Pacific compared to previous years.
Infrastructure and equipment in the region…
The infrastructure within the nations on a whole is lacking but there are about 6 nations that are moving towards a full development program structure including coaching and matchplay. Equipment is provided free of charge on an annual basis by the ITF. The facilities in the region need an overhaul but even if there was investment into re-developing the facilities many nations would not maintain the facilities appropriately for longevity of the venues.
Periodic assessment steps…
The nations that are part of the ITF Junior Tennis Initiative send in 3 reports annually to continue receiving the benefits offered by this program (equipment and financial subsidies) Each Federation will have to review it’s strategic plan with myself every 4 years (Olympic quadrennial) to be eligible for ITF membership.
Major worries of young tennis players in the region…
The major worry for this demographic of players is the consistency of the programs provided by coaches and programs.
Many programs start and stop throughout the year with no clear timetable for sessions. Players get frustrated and move to another sport.
Sport development at a particular region is reflected by the pool of Sports-persons the region nurtures and takes to international stage. How much time do you think your region will take in reflecting the programs through Sports-persons?
Because Tennis is overshadowed by rugby in this region it is hard to promote international role models in tennis for the players but there is a good connection between the promising juniors and previous top players who have been to the USA on Sports Scholarships and return to the pacific to play in events such as the Pacific Games. There are good example of role models and mentoring in effect within the region to this effect.
Something about the National Sport Federations you’re working with, on this project…
There is a big variance in the region between the nations that are prolific in making the necessary effort for developing the game in the region and those that just expect it to happen with no interaction from them.