It has been five months since I started at TSA. To be honest it feels a lot longer! There is a lot happening within tennis in SA and now seems an opportune time to share with you some recent developments. As you will see shortly, we have made some interesting progress in several areas, but there is still a daunting amount to do and I will not gloss over the challenges we face.
Expectations seem very high in the tennis community right now and to be honest, it is frustrating for me that we can’t fix all the problems
Our number one priority right now is financial sustainability. We find ourselves in a severe position but the situation has improved recently with the addition of several new sponsors. I am very confident we are on our way to building a sustainable business model and once we do, we will be able to invest significantly in our structures.
As a reminder – since the start of 2017, we have secured three partnerships:
• KIA Motors – sponsor of our Davis Cup team.
• Vodacom – official streaming and content partner for our major tennis events.
• Axnosis – official sponsor of Davis Cup ties in South Africa.
Each partner has been a pleasure to work with thus far, and we are hopeful this is the start of a long relationship with each one. In terms of other sponsorship developments, leading Italian tennis clothing brand, Lotto Sport, has, as of this week, become TSA’s official technical apparel sponsor. The sponsorship covers our high performance national teams from U12 all the way through to our Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams. The Lotto Sport apparel is professional, fresh and modern. The days of our high performance national teams wearing 1990s style tracksuits is over! Critically selected players will also not have to pay for their national team kit and will be allowed to keep it!
Elsewhere, the new TSA High Peformance Task Force is up and running and has been reviewing all aspects of high performance tennis. Their first set of recommendations – focusing on junior high performance tennis - has been made available on both the TSA website and facebook and I would urge you to read the document and send us your coments. A key focus for the Task Force has been on the selection process for our junior national teams. Vague selection criteria has created much confusion and frustration amongst selectors, parents, players and coaches.
Speaking of coaches – I am firmly of the belief that the future success of our sport in South Africa – especially from a participation and high performance perspective - begins and ends with the quality of our coaches. An exciting development in this space is the recently launched centres of apprenticeship. In very simple terms these centres are focused on mentoring the next generation of coaches – by:
• Providing training opportunities for candidates who are completing their TSA coaching certificates
• Preparing these candidates for work – once they have completed their TSA coaching certificates
We believe that if correctly implemented these centres will help drive the transformation of coaching in their country. The application process, for academies to become centres of apprenticeship, is currently underway.
Another initiative which must be celebrated is SA’s current hosting of the ITF Young Seniors World Championships. At the time of writing the event was in its second week and based on feedback, from the ITF, it has set a new standard for the event. Congratulations to Ronnie van ‘t Hof and his team for delivering an impressive event.
A project that I am very excited about is thenew Transformation and Development Plan for Tennis in SA. Although it is a work in progress it is a smart, pragmatic and achievable plan. The draft plan will be shared publicly for comment and feedback at Nationals, in Bloemfontein in April. The plan will also be made available on our website and social media platforms at the same time.
Meanwhile, there are two areas that really concern me and that TSA needs to dramatically improve on – these are: Communication and information sharing withkey stakeholders and Delivery of tournaments – especially TSA junior tournaments. It is a failing of mine, as new CEO, that we have not seen bigger improvements in these areas. No excuses – we must get these critical areas right.
Nationals is obviously upon us and TSA will be taking the opportunity to improve on the afore-mentioned communication and delivery weaknesses, during that week. From a delivery perspective, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to elevate the event. I am hopeful the event will raise the bar from previous Nationals. We have some surprises in store....so watch this space.
Meanwhile, Nationals provides a great platform for communication and engagement with key stakeholders. Further to this we will be hosting both a Parents event and a Coaches braai during the week of the tournament. The specific details for each are:
• Tuesday 11th April: Parents event from 4.30pm to 6.30pm at the Free State tennis stadium.
• Thursday 13th April: Coaches braai from 4.30pm onwards at the Free State tennis stadium.
The parents event will be a town hall style meeting – where we will present a more detailed update on Tennis South Africa, discuss some key areas of junior tennis and share TSA’s new draft Transformation and Development plan.
The coaches event will be a more informal evening. It will be a chance for coaches to engage and chat in a relaxed environment. The food and drinks will be on TSA. Coaches - don’t say we don’t do anything for you!
On a final note, I would like to officially bid farewell to Leon Freimond, who retires from TSA at the end of March 2017. He has been a loyal servant of the game for many years and he departs with our best wishes.
Tennis is a sleeping giant in South Africa and it does feel like the giant is starting to stir. I hope you agree!
Do you have some ideas about how we can improve and grow the sport in South Africa? If so, please email me
For a copy of Richard Glover's original open letter, in it's orginal form, please open the PDF below