ATPCA Tennis History of Coaching –

with founder Don Champion - profile

[email protected]

As an enthusiastic tennis player, I reached a reasonably high inter- district standard. After personal study of coaching technique (from the very limited information available at the time in 1952) and after having had private lessons from Bert Newman and Henry Lindo, I commenced my own coaching groups part time at 19 years old. Within a matter of weeks, I became swamped with kids and mothers wanting lessons at a single court I hired in Lane Cove. There was a shortage of coaches - the closest then were Bert Newman at East Chatswood and Vic Edwards at East Lindfield – each was qualified LTPAA.

After a few years, I successfully undertook an on court theory and practical exam at the historic “White City” tennis courts with the LTPAA – earlier established by Vic Edwards. On the same day that I became “qualified”, I got a lucky break as they say. A guy rang offering a lease of his 5 courts in Lane Cove. Accepting that, at 23, I dropped my full time trade (qualified electrician) and went full time into tennis coaching. There were 3 more courts just across the road fronting the street – making 8 in one close group. I recall on the first day with transfers from my original single court elsewhere in Lane Cove, and with a waiting list invited along (together with other kids uninvited), I had the challenge of about 100 kids to instruct on my own over just a few hours. A few years later I bought a house which included and overlooked one of those courts.

Interestingly, most of my former friendly Club members with whom for many years I had played competition and social tennis, immediately treated me like I had the plague. In those times, officially turning “professional” from amateur was scorned – same happened to new pro players for a while. Also I became aware that some principal persons in the LTPAA begrudged my commencing and expanding in the Lane Cove area since they lost students who otherwise would have sought coaching with them in their (adjoining) suburb as had been the case for many prior years. In fact, there was initially an Association decree that a member was not allowed to breach another coaches “territory”. In any event I could not accept I was breaching any other accredited coach within about 5 km radius. Nevertheless that Association decree was dropped when the Government in 1965 enacted the Trade Practices Act declaring sole territory maintenance as anti-competitive.

About 3 years after starting full time, I was called to appear at an Association special meeting at “White City” with officials of the LTPAA. The threatening and bullying conduct towards me at that meeting, as I viewed it, left me with a sour taste towards an Association I had trusted to look after my interests. This was my new career on the line. They wanted me to give some adult student a refund for a few lessons she had booked and missed without advising me whilst I waited at the court (she’d complained to the Association) – I refused on principle. So I was soon after advised by mail to return my Certificate and expelled from the clan for not abiding by their wishes. They revoked my qualification; I subsequently found out, that was potentially illegal.

In those days, to succeed long term, it was considered crucial - moreso than now - to be “accredited” (or have your “ticket” as it was then called) and be a member of a professional organisation to teach tennis. There was no other pro tennis coaching Association.

Being very aggrieved yet enterprising, I became inspired to re-affirm my rightful accreditation in some way. There was a lot on my plate. I had my tennis school well up and running with the 8 courts in one location plus 4 others I permanently hired elsewhere in Lane Cove, and I was coaching about 700 kids weekly (plus private lessons). During all school holidays about 60 - 80 kids would turn up every second day for an all- day round robin doubles tournament I had devised. Additionally, I was married with my own children and responsibilities and a second mortgage.

The war for the future of tennis coach accreditation in Australia was about to begin. I decided to counter the LTPAA attack on my integrity and start off a second pro tennis Association in 1967. I had it registered as a non – profit public company (as it remains today). At the time, and for many years after, it was evident that certain officials of the LTPAA were quite aggrieved by the competition the new organisation posed. This was expressed in Newsletters and the harassing attitude towards me personally by a few members of LTPAA. Initially, I named ours NSW Professional Tennis Coaches Association Ltd. Later their Association name was changed to TPAA then to TCA. We changed ours to ATPCA in 1994.

The new Association had various challenges with TCA and Tennis Australia (TA) over the years. Worth mentioning – I vividly recall a meeting in 1999 in Canberra at the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) with TCA and TA officials plus our organisation’s representatives (Directors) Phil Graf and myself , and two of ASC’s top managers. TCA and TA were so strongly opposed to ATPCA’s entry into the Government system they threatened to withdraw if ATPCA was “let in”. ASC’s principal then announced the decision on the spot affirming acceptance of ATPCA (there was no valid reason not to and “de-regulation” was a recent requirement of the Government). So TA then did in fact, also on the spot, advise it was withdrawing from the ASC coach accreditation system. TCA was solely connected to the ASC via TA – not as a Proponent to ASC in its own right (as ATPCA was) so withdrawal of TA automatically withdrew TCA as well. This left ATPCA as the sole National body for tennis coaching accreditation affiliated and approved by the Government.

Then, in December 2001, the “ATP Tour” USA organisation was got onside by TA ( a TA representative had connections with ATP Tour). It had filed opposition to the trademarking of our ATPCA name. With ATP Tour backed by a high profile and renowned coach of TA, and with ATPCA supported by an ex head manager of TA, the ATP Tour lost its case. It was represented by a Barrister physically in Court and ATPCA had a Solicitor on the phone to defend its case. The assessor declared in his written judgement that there was obviously past hostility towards ATPCA by the opposing parties.

The process of assessing ATPCA’s application for TA endorsement with competency based methodology of course content, videos etc continued mainly with Dr Alan Pearce – a high executive of TA. He was quite cooperative to ATPCA but he departed for reasons he declared quite unknown to him. Assessment then slowed down somewhat. However, eventually ATPCA was finally accepted by TA as its Endorsed Coaching Agency (ECA) under a Memorandum of Understanding agreement.

Soon after, a high profile TA representative had meetings with the ASC (without ATPCA’s knowledge though ATPCA was obviously a major stakeholder and we had partaken in all prior meeting as such) and arranged a comeback for TA to the ASC’s tennis coach accreditation system. Then the ASC advised ATPCA by letter that ATPCA would in future be Government (ASC) endorsed only through TA, not directly with the ASC. The letter said all our members would be required to have their fees paid to the ASC through TA and not through ATPCA as before.

ATPCA’s affiliation with the Government (ASC) lasted for 8 years up until 2007. During the shorter period acting as an ECA for TA, there had been a degree of calm between all bodies except TCA was beginning to have major concerns since TA had announced it was intending to run Level 1 and 2 courses itself (and its own membership program) without continuance of its legendary connection with TCA. TA then did disengage from TCA and took over its 1500 members. This announcement also meant TA would soon be competing directly with its own Endorsed Coaching Agency, ATPCA, in running Government accredited courses.

In 2006 TA had offered ATPCA a renewed Memorandum of Understanding for ATPCA’s continuance as its Endorsed Coaching Agency. However this renewal option contained extraordinary extra conditions and financial impediments unacceptable to ATPCA – making our continued attachment unviable for ATPCA’s survival. With a split in the wind, I wrote to the ASC requesting protection of our status should there ever be a separation forced on ATPCA. The ASC responded by letter promising it would assist. Later on, and to this day, this promise did not eventuate.

It was not without sentiment for me to see TCA and its 1500 members taken over by TA in 2006/7 and virtually extinguished. ATPCA was offered a payout to close down too. I never harboured ongoing animosity to TCA whilst competing with it – even though some of its officials and newsletters had continued their bitterness over many of the earlier years as mentioned.

It would be fair, I believe, to suggest that had the ATPCA not challenged TA to recognise our tennis educational work (including RTO endorsement) nearly two decades ago and brought TA and the ASC to the table in 1999, the competency based system (CBS) applied to tennis coaching technique used today would have been delayed many years if applied at all. The ATPCA itself had initiated the CBS through its becoming VETAB approved under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and then becoming a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in the educational system well prior to its ASC and TA endorsement.

TA then adopted the same (CBS) in its own courses structure in 2006-2007. Similarly the study material ATPCA initiated (the first major Manual on tennis coaching techniques (“Supercoach”) in 1994 and the training videos we produced (which were also finally recognised and endorsed by TA) would not have otherwise enlivened TA to produce its own (Manual) for TCA’s use in 2000. TA had admitted in a Newsletter to TCA members, that it had become too detached.

TA’s lack of cooperation with ATPCA is still currently an issue. It remains antagonistic even after multiple offers to conciliate. For example, last year TA corresponded to ATPCA stating flatly without any stated good reason, that it will not accept any Directors or Presenters of ATPCA to be TA members: so much for sport’s ethics, integrity and equality as promoted by the ASC. It seems clear that with TA, the “business” comes first as stated on TV (4 corners) by its previous and its current manager more recently.