2020 is a landmark year for the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, and the Tour’s pioneering educational program the ‘Junior School’ will take centre stage. With new collaborators on board, new content ready to be unleashed, and the first class due to be held in two days, we talked to the School’s creator, Tennis Europe CEO Thomas Hammerl to find out more…
How did the School originate?
TH: We had long and detailed discussions two years ago in which we had to look deeply into Tennis Europe’s missions and goals, to create a new strategy. We talked to people from across the tennis industry, and many said that we could take more of a leading role in education. I saw a lot of potential here – we have always carried out some activities, such as the annual Educational Forum, but we were not reaching large numbers of players, nor were we delivering particularly important messages. So, we decided to go big, and to create a programme for all Junior Tour players aged 13 to 16, which we would translate into several major languages…
What has been the reaction to the School?
TH: It has been fantastic. Our players have thanked us for the opportunity. Tournament organisers are asking us to stage classes at their events. Federations are using Junior School resources to supplement their own educational events. Coaches and parents are always asking if they can attend too, which is great, we are happy for them to come along. Top players are happy to contribute with their tips and advice, and they appreciate the chance to talk directly to tomorrow’s pros. This gives us a lot of encouragement and makes it easy to decide to continue to invest in education.
How do you decide where to stage Junior School events?
TH: This is just the second year, and until now we have been focusing on Tennis Europe’s flagship events, such as the European Junior Championships and the Junior Masters. We also will organise classes at some of the new ‘Super Category’ events, such as ‘Les Petits As’ this weekend, and Stockholm, which are among the most prestigious and long-standing junior events in the calendar. Next year we hope to roll out the School to an even wider range of tournaments. Having said that, all the School videos are all available online for all players – and any interested member of the public – to watch for free.
What can we expect from the School in 2020?
TH: We are hugely proud to be working with the WTA, following their official approval of the School late last year. This gives us access to invaluable input from WTA experts and players and ensures that our information is consistent with players’ needs as they progress to the professional game. We are also in advanced talks with the ATP and hope to be able to make an announcement regarding that very soon. Our goal would be for both Tours to approve the School and to be involved in the creation of content. Of course, as a Regional Association, our educational activities are also in alignment with the ITF and we are very fortunate to have had contributions from their key experts, as well as staff of the Tennis Integrity Unit.
We have a new series of clips due this spring and are launching the first of those – Nutrition & Hydration – in time for the event in Tarbes this weekend. We will keep working on our content, updating existing modules and creating new ones. Most importantly, our classes are fun, authentic and interactive. We won’t run out of topics to cover, or contributors to speak to. While filming, many pros have told us, “I wish there was something like this when I was a junior..,” which makes us proud and shows that what we’re doing is valuable.
New module: Nutrition & Hydration