Port Macquarie Tennis Club is entering a new phase of development. Head professional, Greg Alchin, has just returned from the 2008 Australian Grand Slam Coaches’ Conference In Melbourne and is looking forward to implementing some of Tennis Australia’s new initiatives.
The conference, held in conjunction with the Australian Open, is an international forum bringing together coaches and speakers from around the world.
>Tell us about the conference.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Just let the kids play” and was inspired by speaker Bob Bigelow, who has authored a book of the same name. In essence, it’s about giving sport back to kids. Surveys in the US have shown that kids firstly play sport to have fun, get better, exercise and make friends. Winning comes in at number 8 in order of importance.
One of the advantages of tennis over other sports is that in tennis everyone gets to equally participate. Often in a team sport, one or two players dominate possession of the ball, whereas in tennis each player gets their turn to hit the ball. Tennis is a great game, because it has a high participation rate. It allows kids to be involved, to play and enjoy sport.
At the conference, Tennis Australia launched a revamped Tennis Hot Shots program, carrying on the theme of “Let the kids play”. Based on the International Tennis Federation play and stay program, it aims to adapt the game of tennis to suit kids. This is achieved by changing the ball size and speed, reducing the net height and court size according to different age groups. This makes it easier for kids to achieve success at a younger age and increases their participation.
> What are some of the benefits of attending a conference like this?
The conference enables coaches to come together to update our professional knowledge, look at the way tennis is being developed in other countries, in particular Spain and America, and examine different coaching theories behind countries achieving success in tennis. The conference also allows us to keep up with the latest research in biomechanics and tennis stroke production.
> What were the highlights of the conference?
One of the unique opportunities of attending the conference was the fantastic international speakers. The highlight was to be able to listen to and ask questions of Roy Emmerson (Former Australian player and Grand Slam record holder), Darren Cahill (Australian Davis Cup Coach), Kevin Sheedy (former AFL player and coach) and David Hall (six times world No. 1 wheelchair tennis player). I was also able to spend time on court learning new drills from Spanish coach, Miguel Crespo, who is the research officer with the International Tennis Federation.
One of the highlights of this year’s conference was that it was held at the same time and place as the Australian Open. This is the first time this has happened. This enabled us to watch matches in our free time and discuss the performances of the top ranked players and up and coming juniors. The Australian Open is such a fantastic event. Being able to watch top ranked players, such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Nadal playing on one court, alongside veteran players such as Pat Cash, Mats Wilander, Tony Roach, Wayne Arthurs on another court and outstanding juniors from around the world on another court.
If you enjoy tennis, making the effort to get to the Australian Open is worth it.
It was great watching our Australian Juniors compete in the Junior Championships and do so well. Bernard Tomic from the Gold Coast won the junior boys at age 15, and Jessica Moore from Perth was runner up in the junior girls. The future for Australian Tennis is looking bright.
> What is your professional background?
I suppose my love for tennis started as a young boy, playing tennis at my local club at Lake Cathie, attending coaching classes and playing local competitions and tournaments. At 17, I decided to make tennis my career, training every day and travelling to tournaments up and down the east coast. At 21 I had the opportunity to play club tennis in the German League, but due to a knee injury I changed my focus to coaching rather than playing. After becoming a qualified tennis coach, I started coaching at clubs in the Hastings area. I worked locally for 10 years, enjoying my time as a coach and honing my coaching skills. During that time I also worked as a Country Director with Tennis NSW.
In 1996 I left the area to take up a coaching position with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, where I worked for 5 years. During this time I worked with coaches from around the world and picked up many new techniques, working with coaches Mark Kartzman, (former No. 1 doubles player in the world), Shane Barr (former No. 1 junior in the world) and Jeff Rafter (Pat Rafter’s brother). I enjoyed coaching a diverse range of tennis players, both local and expat, as well as Chinese tour players – some of whom represented Hong Kong in the Davis Cup.
> What brought you back to the local area?
The climate, the lack of pollution and my desire for my children to experience the lifestyle that I enjoyed as a child growing up in the Hastings.
> What are your plans for Port Macquarie Tennis Club in 2008?
We hope to build on the successes of the last 2 years at the club, both for adult and junior tennis players. For juniors we will be introducing some new concepts and teaching methods to our already existing groups and training squads. Also, a modified tennis program will be introduced to our younger children, with the emphasis on improvement through fun.
The Tennis Development Squad (TDC) for elite junior players will continue to train Thursday afternoons, and our junior Friday competition will continue throughout the year. We will also continue to be involved with the Australian Sports Commissions “Active After School” sports program and Tennis NSW’s “Tennis in Schools”.
We will continue our adult mixed night competitions, on Tuesday and Wednesday and Men’s on Thursday. Our Monday drop in social tennis has been a big hit and will continue this year.
Our adult coaching classes will continue, with the addition of adult group training sessions this term. We also have a Seniors’ tournament (22-24 Feb) and an Open Tournament (22-24 March).
Coaching and junior competitions will continue at Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills Tennis Clubs.
As a result of the support from Port Macquarie Hastings Council, renovations to our clubhouse will be carried out this year. We are looking forward to wheelchair access, improved toilet facilities and a revamped clubhouse.
> What does 2008 hold for you professionally?
Apart from managing Port Macquarie Tennis Club and offering professional coaching services and competitions, I will also continue working with Tennis Australia as a Coach Facilitator, developing a training syllabus which will allow coaches to be trained and qualified in regional areas without the expense of going to Melbourne or Sydney.
> Thank you for your time Greg.