High Performance Task Force

ON 27/03/2017 09:03am

Over the last few months a High-Performance Task Force has been meeting to review all aspects of high performance tennis in South Africa. Attached is the group’s first set of recommendations. This document was tabled at a recent Tennis South Africa board meeting. It is envisaged that this task force will continue to operate on a regular basis and make further recommendations for high performance tennis. TSA is looking to implement several recommendations from this document, but would welcome your feedback and views first. If you have an opinion, then please e-mail us - the deadline for submissions is Wednesday 5th April 2017.


1. Introduction:

Founder Members:

• Danie Visser
• Kobus Botha
• Natalie Grandin
• Pietie Norval
• Earl Grainger
• Raven Klaasen
• Riaan Venter
• Gerrie Dippenaar
• Shaun Liebenberg
• Richard Glover
• Riad Davids (Visitor)

Background to creation:

In October 2016, a group of concerned coaches and ex-players (specifically: Messrs. Visser, Grainger, Botha, Norval, Venter & Dippenaar) approached TSA offering their help to improve TSA’s high performance programme.

TSA agreed to proceed and work with the group on the basis that a few other ex- players/coaches were added to the group. Shaun Liebenberg was subsequently added as the board representative on the task force, with Riad Davids as a visitor.

CEOs comment: We do not want to make the task force too large and unwieldy and the chemistry of the group needs to be right. However - I do have some concerns about the make-up of the task force from a transformation and gender perspective. This is something that I will need to address with the group moving forward.

Mandate:

  • Review, make recommendations & monitor implementation of structures to improve all areas of high performance tennis in SA.
  • Objectives:
  • To put in place the right structures and plan to produce Junior ITF, ATP & WTA Top 100 ranked tennis players.

Focus Areas:

1. End to end high performance player pathway – focusing on the long-term player development programme.
2. Junior Tennis Structures – including Tournaments and Calendar.
3. TSA Tournaments v ITF Tournaments.
4. National/Representative teams & Selection.
5. TSA High Performance Manager: Job Spec.
6. Mentorship & succession planning: High performance coaches

2. Work-stream One:

The initial work of the Task Force has focused on junior tennis – specifically:

• Rankings - Juniors
• Tournament set up - Juniors
• Selection and Selectors – Junior National teams
• Touring Coaches – Junior National teams

It is envisaged that the Task Force will operate on an ongoing basis and will make further recommendations about other areas of high performance tennis. The document now goes on to make recommendations to be implemented ASAP – from May 2017 onwards and then recommendations (still under discussion) to be implemented from the end of 2017 tennis season onwards. i.e. from December 2017.

3. Recommendations to be implemented from May 2017:

3.1. Selection and Selectors – Junior National Teams:

• That the selection panel be reduced from 10 selectors to 5 selectors.
• That the criteria for selection be as per the selection criteria framework (detailed below).
• That the selectors sign a code of conduct – confirming their commitment and adherence to the framework.
• That the selectors be obligated to attend key/designated TSA tournaments.
• The criteria for appointment of selectors is still being debated but it is recommended that one member of the task force joins the selection panel.
NOTE: The selection process and the below framework will be influenced by TSA’s official transformation policy and plan – which is currently being worked
on.

3.2. Junior Tennis – Selection Criteria Framework (SCF)

The proposed SCF is a TSA Board approved protocol that forms the basis of TSA junior team selections. To this end, all officially appointed selectors are compelled to sign and confirm their commitment and adherence to this framework. It is expected that amendments and improvements may be added to this SCF over time. The objective of the SCF is to create a robust, objective, transparent and defendable selection process.

1. The TSA Junior Ranking System is the key indicator and input of a player’s performance.

a. The ranking system affords all players an opportunity to demonstrate their competitiveness locally and on the ITF circuit.
b. With 9 local TSA Series tournaments, a nationals and masters event, numerous minis and grand prix events, as well as 7 local ITF’s and a host of international ITF’s in neighboring countries and sub-Saharan Africa, all players have access to sufficient tournaments to ensure that their best 6 tournaments are a fair reflection of their performance.
c. A blended input is used from TSA tournaments and ITF’s to ensure players have access to various levels of competition and that that they are exposed to a variety of players. TSA uses this blended approach as opposed to some European countries that strictly use ITF’s and countries such as New Zealand that uses strictly local tournaments. These variances in approach are mainly because of geographical realities.
d. The ‘blend’ of 6 qualifying tournaments constitutes any local TSA event and / or a maximum of any 3 ITF’s (anywhere in the world) as part of that mix.
e. A minimum of 3 local tournaments in a junior circuit that comprises 11 TSA events and at least 7 local ITF’s, is not deemed an overly unfair expectation from any player, especially as top players are expected to participate in Nationals as well as Masters.
f. Local tournaments remain imperative to ensure that TSA motivates SA players to compete against direct peers and TSA are also able to assess the true “standard” of competition. It is difficult to assess the standard of an ITF being played in Mauritius, as example.
g. ITF’s are included to ensure players who focus on ITF rankings get a fair chance for those results to impact their rankings.
h. Both singles and doubles rankings are important. As such, the combined ranking is the key indicator of performance (100% of singles points and 20% of doubles points). This follows ITF recommendations on the importance of doubles as ITF uses the same combined ranking. A Singles, Doubles and Combined ranking will be maintained as each signifies a different strength in a player. (TSA no longer includes Mixed Doubles as part of the combined ranking calculation).
i. Participation at Nationals and Masters is mandatory for SA selection, unless TSA formally confirms non-participation because of injury or duty for SA elsewhere in the world. Having a different schedule is not a justification for a player to miss these tournaments. This applies to all players.
j. All players are to play Nationals and Masters within their own age groups.
k. The playing calendar runs from 1 December to the conclusion of Masters annually. For selection purposes, a rolling 12-month view of a player’s performance will be considered and reflected in the PPM mentioned in ‘2’ below.

2. A Player Performance Metric (PPM) template is to be developed by TSA for all qualifying players for selection purposes.

a. “Qualifying” refers to players who could be considered or would be in the running for selection for various teams.
b. In all likelihood, this list would comprise of between 10 and 20 players per age group and gender.
c. The PPM consists of the TSA rankings and trends, results in tournaments, win rates and head-to heads. They are all factual and objective.
d. Head-to-heads is a contributing indicator only. Reference here is made to the Kevin Anderson/Stan Wawrinka results, Wayne Ferreira/Pete Sampras results and the Rafael Nadal/Federer duals, where in each case the better ranked player lost more than they won against the specific competitor.

3. The ranking system (as core indicator), together with the PPM as suggested in ‘2’ above, constitutes the objective and measurable factors for team selections.

a. Additional factors include, but are not limited to:

i. TSA’s policy on transformation.
ii. Fitness at a particular point in time.
iii. Court surface.
iv. Participation at SA based team orientated events and tournaments, such as top schools festivals, Inter provincial participation, and league participation. This demonstrates an ability to focus on ‘team’ rather than individual results.

b. Additional factors as described above will allow a relative level of subjectivity, in the case of 2 players having similar results. In this case, the subjectivity comes off the back of objectivity, and not the other way around.

4. International Players: A player can only be selected for representative teams outside of the abovementioned parameter if he/she is formally classified to be an ‘internationally based’ player. This classification should be formalized via the submission and acceptance by TSA of the formal “international” player classification form. A player is deemed to be an ‘internationally based’ player if the player has chosen to physically and practically live abroad and develop their game outside the borders of SA. A player who simply elects to play outside of SA for periods of time is not deemed to be an ‘internationally based’ player and would need to qualify via the criteria as set out above. In the case of a player qualifying as an internationally based player, the Selection Committee could effectively issue such a player a Wild Card selection to a representative team.

5. Code of Conduct: A player’s selection for a representative team will be dependent on a clean Code of conduct report as per TSA’s criteria.

6. SA Squads: After Masters in October annually, a national squad of 8 to 10 players for each age group will be announced (a minimum of 5 players for each year within that grouping e.g. the 2018 U18 squad will have 2000 and 2001 aged players). This squad will receive TSA national squad ‘accreditation’ and these players will form the core of players from which various representative teams will be selected to play various international events, participate in national training camps and effectively participate in High Performance Development activities. Details of the National Squad program are to be published annually.

7. Selected non-TSA tournaments / specific qualification criteria – it should be noted that various ITF/CAT, ITF/CAT Masters and other selected tournaments have pre-determined criteria over which TSA has no jurisdiction. In these cases, TSA may be compelled to nominate representative teams outside of the approved SCF.

8. TSA Masters qualification is based on the top ranked and available players in each age group (excludes players with International status as per definition above).

Whilst team and squad selection is not an exact science, selections must be intellectually defendable. The intention of the SCF is to:

1. Ensure selectors all work off a standard set of data, such as the proposed SCF protocol and the PPM – eliminates subjectivity and focuses on facts.
2. Ensures a higher level of transparency – eliminates speculation.
3. Accommodates ‘internationally’ based players.

4. Recommendations that could be implemented from December 2017 onwards:

Note: these points are still under discussion by the task force.

1. Rankings: The ranking system should include the best of 9 tournaments and not 6, with a maximum of 4 ITF being allowed out of SA. As such, a player can use 9 TSA Series or any other TSA events, or any local ITF as part of his 9 or his best 4 international ITF’s as part of the 9.
2. Playing out of age group: Only allow players to play up - on application to the tournament/TSA. Then, any player playing a tournament out of age group will only be allowed to earn the points he/she would have earned as if he/she had played in his/her own age group. This is to prevent chasing of points.
3. Back draws: For Nationals and TSA Series Events - the back draw for the main draw is to be replaced with a first round loser “plate” event (including players from qualifying rounds). Players who lose from the second round onward will not play back draw matches. Note: Back draws would continue for Mini and Grand Prix events.
4. Wild Cards: Currently provinces are allocated 50% of the 4 Wild Cards at TSA
series events. In future, TSA retains all 4 of the Wild Cards – provinces can apply to TSA for Wild Cards should they need to.

5. Other areas still under review by the task force:

• Criteria for the appointment of selectors.
• Criteria and appointment process of touring coaches.
• Tournament calendar.
• Tournament experience.
• Schools tennis & how it links to the TSA junior tennis programme.
• The high-performance pathway – especially from the age of 16/17 onwards.

6. Early feedback on this document - from various other parties:

Age Groups: We should look at different tournament loads for different age groups. Ideally the 12 & under ranking and 18 & under ranking (for example) should not have the same criteria as players at 12 & under need to focus more on their development and building their game. At 12 & under around 70% of competitions will be National, while at 18 & under it will be around 20 to 30% (including National Senior Events).
New qualifying criteria for 14 and under AJC: Will now be based on the CAT ranking. This is in effect from the 2nd AJC for 2017 (September). This needs to be considered.
Limiting number of tournaments: Provision should be made in the ranking system to limit the number of tournaments a player can play at 12 and 14 & under to restrict over competing.
Align the competition structure in SA with long term player development principles: Specifically, the number of competitions, offer competitions in blocks, provide blocks for training/development and provide coaches/parents with a basic annual plan template to enable proper planning.
National Squads: Players who are in a national squad (and who are therefore the recipient of TSA investment in terms of camps etc.) should be directed to compete in certain tournaments, so that selectors benefit by head-to-head results etc.
Playing out of age groups: We must ensure the system does not penalize players who are at the top of their age group and are looking to improve their game by playing against tougher opposition.