Clark: ‘Till 12, kids should be exposed to different games’

Tennis coach Todd Clark does not believe in holding on to the good players, his players are free to change coaches or centres if they like.

Todd Clark, with his players, watching the match of Zeel Desai, along with Zeel's mother, during the National Tennis Championship in Delhi on Thursday.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Todd Clark has his hands full with 300 trainees at the Ahmedabad Racquet Academy, but the genial tennis coach is concerned about Indian tennis and the growth of all the players.

“I was well settled in Sydney. Indian players were coming and training with me. When I saw so many tournaments in India in 2014, I thought that India was the place to be. So I shifted here,” said Todd, who is now concerned about the lack of tournaments in the country.

He is equally worried about the transition tour which is all set to start next season and its impact on the motivational levels of players.

Owing to paucity of international tournaments in the country, many Indian players have been competing around the world consistently even though very few have so far been able to break into the big league.

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“I think the players and parents have to get together and plan. We need to have one coach travelling with five or six players, so that we can cut the cost. With that money everyone can play more tournaments.

“The players will always be talking to their coaches on phone or computer. The travelling coach will just need to fix practice sessions and be around when required to sort things’’, observed Todd.

The healthy set up in Gujarat has caught the imagination of the tennis fraternity so much that there are players from about a dozen states training there.

Unlike most coaches, Todd does not believe in holding on to the good players. He makes it clear to his leading players like Zeel Desai — who has been gradually finding her feet in the women’s professional circuit and Megh Bhargav Patel, who recently won the national junior title in Chennai — to feel free to move on to any other coach or centre, if they like.

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“The interest of the player is the key. If the players feel at any stage that they have gained enough from our set up, and believe that they can improve by moving to another place, they are most welcome to do so. I have made it clear to them,” said Todd.

He firmly believes that a bunch of good coaches, who communicate with each other regularly, can help Indian players reach the next level.

A firm believer in sustaining the hunger of the young players, Todd is categorical that players should choose the game that they want to pursue only when they are about 12 years of age.

“Till 12 years, the kids should be exposed to different games. It helps in their development. And when they play tennis, it should only be for three days a week. Even the training sessions are quality oriented rather than for long hours. We need to preserve the players and keep them fresh for competition for long. Look at Rohan Bopanna, he has been able to play top class for long, after having started late,” points out Todd.

The parents may like to have matching hours of training for the big money they shell out, but Todd conveys that the parents are taken into confidence and all their doubts answered in an open session held twice a year.

Todd also appreciates the path taken by Arjun Kadhe who went to college in the US to get better with his tennis and has stuck to the game, to provide a good example for everyone to emulate.

He has high hopes on Indian women’s tennis, and firmly believes that with better camaraderie among themselves the Indian girls would be able to reach the higher levels, the way Ankita Raina, Prarthana Thombare and Karman Kaur Thandi have done so far.