The PTA model seems to be working

Published : Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A VERY important aspect of a sports development program is the talent identification component, meaning a serious effort is made to spot and recruit young athletes who have potentials to make good in their chosen sport.

Unfortunately, not all our National Sports Associations (NSA’s) have working programs on talent identification, which is in turn part of a grassroots program that broadens the base of prospective recruits.

In the case of tennis, a group of tennis patrons, Jean Henri Lhuillier, Oscar Hilado, Rommie Chan, and Hanky Lee started their own program under the auspices of the Philippine Tennis Academy (PTA) and you have to give it to them as their model seems to be working out well as far as spotting raw talents and developing them into much better athletes.

To think that it was only in August 2011 that the PTA was formed with former national player Jun Toledo as head coach assisted by several coaches like Rommel Openano and Rolito Litang who specialize in different areas like conditioning and footwork for a complete development of the trainees.

I had a chance to talk not only to Jun recently at the Rizal Memorial tennis court where PTA athletes dominated their respective age groups in the Buddy Andrada Age Group Tennis Cup, the fact is I was also able to talk to the athletes themselves to ask them about the kind of training they get from the PTA.

The athletes I talked to were Roxanne Mae Resma, Bryan Otico, Jan Godfrey Seno, Nicole Amistad, and earlier, I sat down with Kim Iglupas and Iggy Pantino, the latter presently in the United States for training.

Actually, we can also include recent PCA Open champion and top ranked local player Johnny Arcilla as one of those who trained with the PTA upon his request and he only had good words for what he experienced under the PTA.

The young athletes were one in saying that they have reaped the benefits of their traning with the PTA, particularly the trio of Iglupas, Pantino, and Resma, all of whom have been sent abroad for training and competition by the PTA.

From being more disciplined , developing their footwork, increasing their stamina, and other specific skills in their personal tennis arsenals, all of them agree on one thing, the program works, and for the record, the 15 year old Resma ruled both the 18 & under and the 16 & under age groups at the Andrada tournament, she beat Iglupas in the 16 & under, Otico won the 14 & under boys’ crown, while another recent PTA trainee Stefan Suarez, son of former tennis great Reymund Suarez, topped the boys’ 16 & under.

According to Jun, what may differentiate their training program is that it is an all day training regimen, starting with early morning runs to build endurance, athletes train 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, and during competitions, using computers is not allowed to avoid distraction.

The target is get their athletes American college scholarships in specific schools with good tennis programs, and eventually play in the ITF circuit, using Nino Alcantara as a template, Alcantara is now studying in Pepperdine University as a tennis scholar.

And adding that what separates their young athletes from other young players is that they do not have any attitude problem with PTA trainees, otherwise, they will not last long under the program, related Jun.

Another factor is that the trainees’ parents do not meddle in the training program, this in other sports is a major problem, that of parents getting in the way of coaches in both training and coaching, but not in the PTA, says Jun.

For this year, Jun will evaluate the PTA trainees based on how they performed last year, the improvement areas needed, and how the athletes worked on their respective improvement areas, then the PTA will decide who to send abroad again and in what tournament to enter the players.

At the same time, try to discover more young athletes in the provinces and open additional PTA training camps aside from Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Now if only this model can be adopted by others.