27 Sep 2012

Teaching more than just tennis

News Article

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicITF Junior Tennis School Educational Forum - Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN: Sometimes the tennis rackets need to be put down to discuss the practicalities of life as a junior and pro tennis player.

The ITF takes the education of a tennis player as seriously as they do their forehands and backhands. In that vein, they put on Educational Forums at a number of their junior events.

On Wednesday night, the juniors piled into a room at the hotel where everyone is staying for an Educational Forum, a part of the ITF Junior Tennis School. This is an important and difficult program to put together. The aim is to incorporate topics the juniors need information about and to reach an audience of teenagers from all different corners of the planet who speak a variety of languages.

On the agenda for this Educational Forum was an introduction to the ITF, a quick word on social media, an explanation regarding the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, a look at nutrition and the athlete, an overview of the financial picture of a tennis player, and a question-and-answer session with former Roland Garros champion Albert Costa.

Luca Santilli, the ITF’s Director of Junior and Senior Tennis, offered an introduction as to the ITF’s role in the game and sent the message that the ITF’s interest is “to take care of you.” He also showed a brief video that shows how many things the ITF are involved in, which includes the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.

Yours truly, as a member of the media, offered a brief reminder that while social media provides a great opportunity to keep in touch with friends and family, it is essential to think about what you post on places like Facebook and Twitter. What goes up in these places becomes public knowledge with only varying privacy controls available. The point was that you don’t want to write anything that could create an issue for you in the present or the future.

One of the more important offerings came from Carly O’Hara, who works in the ITF’s anti-doping department. Yes, some of this could not be the most exciting to hear, but in terms of having a drug-free tennis career, it is absolutely essential for a player to know what they can and what they cannot put into their body. O’Hara also explained what actually takes place when you are being drug tested. A big lesson learned was that many common over-the-counter drugs (cold, allergy) or regular prescription medicine (such as for asthma) or supplement products there can be ingredients that will lead to a positive drug test. Some situations, such as asthma, might require you to take a specific drug and there is paperwork a player can file to receive permission to take a necessary drug for their health. Every player left with a list of drugs that are a no-no to take that they can show to their doctors and pharmacists.

Fernanda Aguilar, a dietician from Mexico who has worked with Olympic medallists, explained how nutrition is an integral part of an athlete’s life. A players’ diet is an element involved in their recovery and growth, in picking the right foods to win, and in how balanced meals best fuel your performance.

Alain Goblet, of the BNP Paribas Head of Sports desk, caught the teens interest when he discussed that when they became pros they’ll make a lot of money. He made note that each person has different needs and interests and a financial advisor can best advise a person how to invest their money according to their priorities in life. Goblet certainly received attention when he said that if he gave each person in the room 1000 Euros they’d all do something different with the money. Alas, that was just an example and he wasn’t handing out any crisp bills.

It was exciting for the players to then be introduced to Costa, who told them about when he had played the Junior Davis Cup and what he thought about and did when he was a junior. Italy’s Gianluigi Quinzi wanted to know what Costa felt like when he won Roland Garros -- perhaps he was looking for inspirational advice for the future.

And no junior left the symposium empty-handed. They all left with a t-shirt, which as we all know, kids never have too many of and always immediately put on their newest acquisition.