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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 23rd, 2016, 01:24 PM Thread Starter
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Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

Tennis is a beautiful sport. A sport for a lifetime.

For most people who play tennis it is what they make of it; an individual chooses how much and one what level the engage with tennis.

Women's tennis at a modern professional level is quite different. While is is true that some notable women took up the sport at a late age, the majority are wielding a racquet well before the age of ten. Four, five, six are not uncommon. In extreme cases we have tennis parents like Stefano Capriati who once boasted about having his daughter Jennifer Capriati do situps in her crib, or children's futures being decided even before birth as in the cases of the Williams sisters or Martina Hingis.

Gender, youth, and the pressures of sport all intersect here. Parental influence is often paramount. At the very least the consent of parent is needed to hand over the care or coaching of a child to a coach or federation.

These factors leave young women and girls vulnerable to varied forms of what many would call abuse, both verbal and physical. There are extreme cases (see little known Evegenia Linetskaya below) that sound like horror shows. There is Jim Pierce. To what extent does tennis contribute to cases like these? After all abuse of girls and women takes place outside of tennis daily.

Then we have parents who are both castigated and worshiped depending on one's viewpoint or fanbase. Richard Williams is exhibit A, but successful "pushy" parents are as old as the sport. In the 1920s Suzanne's Lenglen's father exhibited many similar traits. In the late 1890s it was remarked on how the dad of the Roosevelt twins (US National Champions)

The issues here are complex. What traits make a good or great tennis parent? What produces nightmares? When two parents are involved how does that change the dynamics? How much depends on the personality of the young tennis phenom herself? What about players like Maureen Connolly who found tennis with no parental involvement?


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Last edited by Rollo; Oct 23rd, 2016 at 02:31 PM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 23rd, 2016, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Coaches and Parents from Hell

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/16/sp...ssue.html?_r=0

After Coach Is Barred, Oversight Becomes Issue

By DANIEL KAPLANJAN. 16, 2006

When Evgenia Linetskaya took the court today in Melbourne at the Australian Open, two people who groomed her game were not welcome.

In late November, the WTA Tour barred her coach, Joe Giuliano, for life and suspended her father, Simon Linetskiy, for two years. They are prohibited from the grounds of WTA events and official player hotels. The Open is honoring the bans.

Women's professional tennis has had its share of teenage players who have been abused by parents or coaches. Linetskaya, a 19-year-old Russian ranked 62th in the world, is the latest to raise the issue.

The actions against Giuliano and Linetskiy stem from incidents involving Linetskaya at a tournament last August in Carlsbad, Calif. Linetskiy, 49, was arrested and charged with suspicion of battery, and his daughter was taken to a hospital for treatment, said Lt. Bill Rowland of the Carlsbad Police Department.

The week after Linetskiy's arrest, the Carlsbad police received a tip from a doctor in Los Angeles who had treated Linetskaya, then 18. The doctor said she contended that her coach had assaulted her, Rowland said. By that time, Giuliano had left town. He is wanted for questioning in a police investigation into the matter, Rowland said, but his whereabouts are unknown.

Linetskaya's case raises questions about the WTA's role in screening the men who coach and spend so much time with the players.

"There are so many young girls who are so vulnerable," said Tara Snyder, 28, who described her three-month coaching relationship with Giuliano in 2001 as a nightmare, saying he made sexual advances and exhibited bizarre behavior.

"You are on your own, you are trusting this person," Snyder said, referring to coaches in general. "You are trusting this guy to do the honorable thing. There needs to be some sort of screening, something the WTA can do."

Linetskaya declined to comment, said Andrew Walker, a WTA spokesman.

The WTA barred Giuliano under a Tour provision that governs coaches' conduct and includes prohibitions against physical abuse and sexual misconduct; it was the first lifetime penalty issued by the Tour. Larry Scott, the chief executive of the WTA, declined to describe the events that led to the group's action but said that Linetskaya had submitted a formal complaint against Giuliano.

"Given the severity of the Giuliano suspension," Scott said, "clearly the strongest penalty is reserved for anything that affects the player's health and well-being."

Linetskaya, who declined to press charges against her father, has brought no legal action against Giuliano, Scott said. But she was not the first person to express concerns about Giuliano to the WTA.

Daniel Harkleroad, the father of the American player Ashley Harkleroad, spoke with Scott by telephone in May 2004 and met with him last year at Wimbledon to complain that Giuliano had behaved inappropriately during a brief time as her coach. Scott confirmed the meeting but not its subject. Ashley Harkleroad never made a formal complaint, and the Tour took no action.

The WTA defended its policies, which require that only the coaches of players under 18 take development courses to ensure that they are properly trained. All coaches and players sign a code of conduct.

But there is only so much the Tour can do, Scott said, because players are not employees.

"At the end of the day, who independent contractors want to hire as a coach is the decision of the player," he said. "We have a very different role than team sports."

Snyder, however, criticized the WTA for not doing more to keep track of coaches like Giuliano, who she said was well-known on the Tour for making sexual advances toward players. She suggested that the WTA do background checks and have players fill out questionnaires about their coaches.
But Snyder never told the WTA about her problems with Giuliano. During the 2001 French Open, shortly after she began working with Giuliano, Snyder said, he secretly instructed the front desk to block calls to her room from her boyfriend, the tennis pro Brent Haygarth. Giuliano then changed rooms to be next to hers, and bought her gifts, including a leather jacket and a gold necklace.

Several days into the tournament, Snyder said, Giuliano barged into a hotel lobby bathroom and tried to kiss her. At Wimbledon several weeks later, Snyder said, she all but tanked her first-round match so she could fire him.

"If I had been 17 or 18, it would have been a huge problem," Snyder, who was 22 at the time, said recently.

Giuliano, who has no permanent address or phone number, could not be contacted. Requests to speak with him were relayed through acquaintances. The WTA said it communicated with him through his friends. Giuliano was not present when the WTA barred him.
Born in Yonkers, Giuliano graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1981. After three years on the varsity tennis squad there, he competed briefly on a minor professional circuit. Around that time, he befriended Vitas Gerulaitis, a top pro and fellow New Yorker, who introduced him to John McEnroe.

Giuliano and McEnroe remained friends after Gerulaitis died in 1994. McEnroe's agent, Gary Swain of IMG, said McEnroe would not comment.
By the end of the 1990's, Giuliano, with his blossoming connections, began to coach on his own. In addition to Snyder, Linetskaya and Harkleroad, his clients have included Miriana Lucic and Elena Bovina. He twice coached the World TeamTennis squad in Mamaroneck, N.Y., partly owned by Patrick McEnroe, the brother of John.

"He is sort of a vagabond," said Patrick McEnroe, who is also a commentator for ESPN and captain of the United States Davis Cup team. "I knew Joe has had his problems over the years. He has always been a friend of mine and to people I know. If this is what happened, it is terrible. I feel bad for everybody involved. I am dismayed and disgusted."

Giuliano often found work through IMG, the sports marketing company that dominates the business of professional tennis. Snyder, who was represented by IMG at the time she hired Giuliano, said many IMG agents were his friends.

Tim Nichols, a coach based in Florida who has worked with several women ranked in the top 50, said, "IMG is always taking care of him, providing him with players, because I guess he is good at what he does."

An IMG spokeswoman said that Giuliano was not a client and that he had worked with players represented by several agencies.
In the spring of 2004, shortly before a tournament in South Carolina, Harkleroad, then 18, hired Giuliano as her coach. The day after she lost in the first round, she dismissed him and paid him $150 for his services.

Daniel Harkleroad said, "I would just say he is a lonely guy that has no family and that loves tennis and loves the Tour." He declined further comment, citing Giuliano's influential friends who could impede his daughter's career.

One difficulty the WTA may have in regulating relationships between coaches and players is that they frequently also have dating relationships.
In perhaps the most high-profile example, the Swiss player Patty Schnyder grew estranged from her family in 1999 when she dated her coach, Rainer Harnecker, who advocated a strict vegan diet. She fired him several months later. Harnecker did not violate the Tour's code of conduct with Schnyder because both were consenting adults.

Linetskaya's case may be the first in which the WTA has tried to protect a player from a parent as well as a coach.

The Tour barred Jim Pierce, Mary Pierce's father and sometime coach, from 1993 to 1998, the longest banishment before Giuliano's. The WTA regulation prohibiting abusive conduct by relatives and coaches is known colloquially as the Jim Pierce rule. The Grand Slam tournaments usually honor Tour rulings.

In 2000, after the United States Open ejected Jelena Dokic's father, Damir, for complaining loudly about the price of salmon in the players' restaurant, the WTA barred him for six months. Damir Dokic, who was also involved in coaching his daughter, had several other highly publicized encounters, including his smashing a photographer's camera at Wimbledon.

Snyder, who has been ranked as high as 33rd but is now 325th, says she still feels the sting of her time with Giuliano.

"He has a middle seat reserved on the express train to hell," she said.


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Last edited by Rollo; Oct 23rd, 2016 at 04:46 PM.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2016, 12:10 AM
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Re: Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
[...]
Gender, youth, and the pressures of sport all intersect here. Parental influence is often paramount. At the very least the consent of parent is needed to hand over the care or coaching of a child to a coach or federation.

These factors leave young women and girls vulnerable to varied forms of what many would call abuse, both verbal and physical. There are extreme cases (see little known Evegenia Linetskaya below) that sound like horror shows. There is Jim Pierce. To what extent does tennis contribute to cases like these? After all abuse of girls and women takes place outside of tennis daily.
If abuse or mistreatment by a parent happens, then the abuse or mistreatment very, very, very likely would have happened even if the parent had never heard of tennis.

Instances of abuse or mistreatment by parties outside the family are trickier. Trying to walk a very fine line here, tennis academy boarding schools would be an abuser's delight (and the abusers can be other kids). So many children so far from home, so many language barriers, so many cultural divides, so many conflicts of interest, so little outside oversight. Likewise with the politics that go on inside the national federation programs and the need to remain "favored" within the system, and with what independent, acclaimed coaches with long waiting lists and/or high prices can demand. I am truly surprised that we haven't heard an earth-shattering kaboom yet.

The questions become: Were the parents truly that nave/fooled? Were the parents so blinded by their own greed and ambition to the point that they could not see anything except what they wanted to see? Did the parents consciously know/suspect what they were making their child suffer, but view the potential future payoffs as worth it?

The WTA and the ITF/national federations are hardly the only organizations that do not have a great track record when it comes to the welfare of children or adult "workers." But if the players aren't speaking up, then there really isn't much the administration side can do, except try to convey the message that complaints will be seriously investigated and acted upon if there are grounds.

I cannot understand why it took until Linetskaya for someone to call the police on Joey G. Or why no one (I'm looking at you, Tara Snyder!) told the press loudly: "I'm firing this coked-up creep who can't keep his hands to himself. Hey, fellow players, don't hire him, no matter what IMG or the McEnroe Bros. say about him." Instant media attention! If the WTA still takes no action, the players can make their own blacklist of coaches, agents, and other assorted bizarre parasites that tennis players attract. Of course, that would still require the players/handlers to speak to and listen to other humans or even think for themselves -- and no one wants to do that.

Quote:
Then we have parents who are both castigated and worshiped depending on one's viewpoint or fanbase. Richard Williams is exhibit A, but successful "pushy" parents are as old as the sport. In the 1920s Suzanne's Lenglen's father exhibited many similar traits. In the late 1890s it was remarked on how the dad of the Roosevelt twins (US National Champions)
"Pushy" or "Put 'Em to Work!" parents are not exclusive to tennis or sports in general.

One thing that I think is worth mentioning about hotheads, blowhards, drunks, and kooks is that sometimes hotheads, blowhards, drunks, and kooks just say stuff that should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. The issue is then compounded by modern tennis' belief that verbal intimidation/psychological warfare techniques are effective and that controversy is good, possibly even downright necessary, for the game's popularity.

Quote:
The issues here are complex. What traits make a good or great tennis parent? What produces nightmares? When two parents are involved how does that change the dynamics? How much depends on the personality of the young tennis phenom herself?
One obvious simple answer: The same traits that make a good/nightmarish real-world parent also make a good/nightmarish tennis parent. Including some traits that well-meaning but nonetheless idiotic people find to be "shocking." Unfortunately, many real-world parents seriously, irreparably bleep up trying to raise just an "average" kid, so we shouldn't expect the parents of phenoms to do any better. If you wouldn't let an "average" kid get away with something, don't let a "phenom" kid get away with it, and vice versa -- unless you're trying to create a monster.

The next obvious simple answer: In order to have success in tennis, kids cannot end up hating it and its requirements and by-products. That will depend on how much the kid inherently likes competitive tennis, or at least genuinely likes (no fear involved) pleasing her parent, and the parent's motivational and training techniques. Everyone's mileage will vary. And many times it will be hard to gauge "the truth," because what players and their families/handlers say in public can be quite different from what happened in private. E.g., the Sanchez family: I mean, to this day, do we really know what the hell was and is going on there?

Touching on some recent postings in the "1996" thread, the phenom also needs to learn how to handle not getting her own way all the time, whether it's losing or needing to struggle to win; calls (bad, close, or correct) that go against her; or having to share the world with The Rest Of Us. Of course, this is an important life lesson for everybody, but it's extra important if your job involves a one-on-one competition. I guess this is a good place to point out that there can be children and students from hell, not just parents and coaches.

Quote:
What about players like Maureen Connolly who found tennis with no parental involvement?
While she found it without parental involvement, I'm sure there was some kind of encouragement as she went along. Even without a pushing/meddling parent, the tennis court turned into a dark place of hate and fear for her -- so probably a few self-esteem issues there or a complex case of tennis-loathing. Coach Tennant was certainly of the "hate your opponent" philosophy, but it's doubtful that she could have turned Connolly in that direction in under two years if there wasn't something internal going on.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2016, 06:53 PM
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Re: Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

An example of "simultaneously revered and reviled:" Peter Graf, when hitting with a very young Steffi, offered the reward of an ice cream party if she could hit the ball over the makeshift net 25 consecutive times, but would then often deliberately hit the last ball so that she couldn't return it. And there was no party just because she came close. Nor did very young Steffi take it meekly, whether she failed because Papa thwarted her or because she hit her own wild shot (by everyone's account, Steffi broke a lot of lamps/light fixtures but that was OK).

This was depicted by some as an example of his harshness or as a psychological problem in the making. However, if you're trying to raise a tennis champion, this approach is a good way on a number of levels.

First, you get to see if or how often she still thinks playing is fun the next day. Second, after going through that the first time, you get to see how she plays knowing that something of value to a little kid really is at stake. Third, she learns the extremely important tennis lesson that the opponent is trying to hit the ball so that she can't return it. Fourth, she learns the even more extremely important real-life lessons that she can survive being disappointed and that losing self-control will not get her what she wants.

Of course, not every kid is going to pass those "tests," or at least not right away. But even the areas that are "failed," provide clues about what aspects the parent/coach should work on -- or maybe that the kid really isn't a good fit for competitive tennis, no matter how otherwise talented she is.

So it shouldn't be a mystery why Steffi Graf coped rather well with pressure, adversity, and disappointment, even the stuff inflicted by the Papa. She had been practicing/had been selected for it since before she was four years old. For everything else that can be said about Peter, he did do some things very right.
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Re: Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

Quote: Posted by Rollo

What about players like Maureen Connolly who found tennis with no parental involvement?

Quote:
posted by Mrs A While she found it without parental involvement, I'm sure there was some kind of encouragement as she went along. Even without a pushing/meddling parent, the tennis court turned into a dark place of hate and fear for her -- so probably a few self-esteem issues there or a complex case of tennis-loathing. Coach Tennant was certainly of the "hate your opponent" philosophy, but it's doubtful that she could have turned Connolly in that direction in under two years if there wasn't something internal going on.
Total agreement regarding Coach Tennant. I think she latched onto part of Maureen's demons and used it to maximum effect


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Re: Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

Quote:
For everything else that can be said about Peter, he did do some things very right.
There was never any doubt he cherished his daughter, or that she returned that love.

The "non tennis" parent is a part of the dynamic that intrigues me, and I find the Grafs a good example. Heidi was (as far as I know) just "mom" and not coach or tennis tactician. This is probably all to the good in making Steffi a well adjusted individual, not to mention taking off a lot of pressure that could manifest itself in negative ways.

Colette Evert had a similar role with Chris Evert.


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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 30th, 2016, 01:19 AM
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There was never any doubt he cherished his daughter, or that she returned that love.

The "non tennis" parent is a part of the dynamic that intrigues me, and I find the Grafs a good example. Heidi was (as far as I know) just "mom" and not coach or tennis tactician. This is probably all to the good in making Steffi a well adjusted individual, not to mention taking off a lot of pressure that could manifest itself in negative ways.

Colette Evert had a similar role with Chris Evert.
Heidi was sufficiently knowledgeable about tennis and skilled as a player to function as a warm-up partner when she traveled with Steffi as a junior and rookie pro, but I don't think she was involved with technique or tactical coaching. I would say she was sometimes the chief morale officer and the Keeper of Perspective. Steffi once told about flying back home from Wimbledon after losing and being in an especially bad mood, so Heidi took some kind of hand puppet that was there for children on the flight to play with and improvised a skit that parodied the way Steffi was acting. And Steffi had to laugh at herself and snap out of it.

But then Heidi's admitted long-term bout with depression and "It's All The Fault Of Steffi's Success" Syndrome obviously weighed just as heavily on Steffi as Peter's problems. Aeschylus would have been awed by the Grafs. "Sing sorrow, sorrow: but good win out in the end."
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Total agreement regarding Coach Tennant. I think she latched onto part of Maureen's demons and used it to maximum effect.
That's some real Dark Side of the Force sinfulness, because Connolly seemed to have so much Light Side in her. I'm just surprised the hate/fear stuck with Maureen even after she fired Tennant once she realized how much she was being manipulated.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old Oct 31st, 2016, 11:05 PM
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Re: Coaches and Parents: from Heaven to Hell

Great thread. When I think of coaches, I remember this article that came out many years ago regarding the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and female tennis players. Australia has had it's fair share of dodgy parents (Damir Dokic and now Tomic and the very delusional Kyrigos family) but the AIS method were not much better in the 1980-90's.


Tennis: Outcry over tennis girls' diets claims

Australian academy launches inquiry after players tell of eating disorders
THE PRESTIGIOUS Australian Institute of Sport has launched an investigation into claims by a group of women tennis players that they were forced into unsuitable diet regimes as part of their training, which left some with eating disorders.The allegations involve 34 former scholarship holders at the Institute, beginning in 1981 but including some who were being coached at Canberra as recently as three years ago.

One former national junior champion, Esther Knox, lost over half a stone in nine days on what she described as "a semi-starvation diet" consisting of just fruit for breakfast and lunch, and small portions of meat and salad for dinner.
But the worst moment of her internship, in 1992-93, came when her coach, Peter Campbell, videoed his slimmed-down charge in action and, Ms Knox alleges, focussed the camera on her legs, "to show me how much better I looked. I was completely humiliated."

Another player, Brenda Catton, has recalled how pressure to lose weight from her coach at the Institute led to her "vomiting before each match" including games at Wimbledon in 1981, when she had lost nearly two stone in weight. Soon after arriving on her scholarship, she says, coach Ray Ruffels would call her "fat and slow" and began to pick on her for being unable to lift weights. She developed anorexia nervosa, and later bulimia, which took 10 years to overcome.
"The only reason I developed anorexia was to please Ray," Ms Catton told the Sydney Daily Telegraph. "They were always on to me about losing weight." Mr Ruffels, who left the AIS in 1990, denied calling her fat, though he conceded that he tried to instil a "disciplined" approach to diet.

Another girl, Renee Reid, responded to similar pressures by going on eating binges. The first her parents knew of the problem, after two years of her scholarship, was when the AIS sent her a memo to the family home, dated February 28, 1995, after a tournament in Ballarat, Victoria.

In it, her coach at the Institute, Chris Kachel, wrote: "Following the results of your physical testing at last week's AIS scholarship holders' camp, I am writing to express my supreme disappointment.
"It is unacceptable for an AIS tennis athlete to have a skinfold reading of 181, when the expected range is approximately 80-100." The memo confirmed the suspension of scholarship entitlements, including an allowance worth A$300 per week for financial support while playing in overseas tournaments, though the player herself had been told verbally, in front of other trainees.
Her mother, Sandra Reid, said: "Renee had three options - anorexia, bulimia or eat - that's what happens to girls if they are called fat. I'm glad she did go out and eat because if she chose the other alternatives she would be dead."
Another former trainee, Linda Cassell, who is now a nun, recalled hearing her fellow players, in 1981-82, vomiting in the bathrooms under a regime which, she said, placed more stress on players' appearance in their tennis outfits than the actual level of performance: "They lived on lettuce, they jogged in glad wrap by night." Ms Reid complained that, when she was removed from the programme, she had proved herself capable of beating other, slimmer trainees on court.

The allegations have brought to a head long-standing criticisms of AIS methods, widely admired and emulated in other sports, being applied to tennis players. Margaret Court, an Australian sporting legend for her feats as the only woman to win the Grand Slam of all four major championships in the same calendar year, said the game at the top level required individual coaching.
"I believe champions are very sensitive," she declared. "When they get into squad coaching at an early age, they get walked over, they all look like robots. I wouldn't have survived if I had gone into the AIS."

Australia's current big name tennis stars are both men - Mark Philippoussis, who has always been coached by his father, albeit with financial support from the AIS, and Patrick Rafter, a "late developer" who only reached his top 10 status well after he started working with a full-time individual coach.

In a media release, the AIS points to more modest successes by female graduates of its coaching system, with Annabelle Elwood, who achieved a world ranking of 55, and Alicia Molik, who rose during her internship from 660 to 163, being the most notable.

The Institute's director, John Boultbee, said neither he nor his coaching staff could be blamed for Australia's failure to produce outstanding women tennis players to set alongside world-beating alumni from programmes in athletics, water sports and a host of other fields.
Mr Boultbee plans to interview journalists, officials, former coaches and players to get to the bottom of the matter. But he added: "Surely Australian taxpayers wouldn't expect coaches to stand by and allow athletes not to achieve fitness levels at the expense of other committed athletes who can meet those criteria." Despite the help of a range of professionals, trainees themselves were "accountable on issues such as fitness and discipline."

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