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August 5, 2014

John LeBoutillier

Kelly Murumets


THE MODERATOR:テつ With us we have our president and CEO, Ms.Kelly Murumets, who has been with us for four or five months, so brand‑new, and Mr. John LeBoutillier.
We'll take questions.

Q.テつ Let's talk about the way tennis has grown in Canada in the last few years.テつ Now you have like a final between two Canadians last Sunday in Washington.テつ Eugenie has so much success this year.テつ I want your comments on that, how you feel about the progression of tennis in Canada.
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ We set up a program over 10 years.テつ Today we can't say yet we reached our goal, but we do have very good results after only seven years.
The program included several faces.テつ The board of directors of Tennis Canada hired Michael Downey with the mission of focusing on the elite players, spotting the most promising young players.
We had a budget of approximately $3 million to $3.5 million dedicated to the development of tennis.テつ We wanted to improve our infrastructure in the two major cities of tennis in Canada, Toronto and Montrテδゥal.テつ We wanted to add more seats in the stadiums.テつ We wanted to add more space for the players to practice.
Then we wanted to hire a world class coach.テつ We also wanted to build facilities.テつ Fortunately the government of Quテδゥbec and the government of Montrテδゥal both helped us a lot.テつ Without them we couldn't have improved or infrastructure.テつ We couldn't have hired those world class coaches like Louis Borfiga.
Already in 2014 we have excellent results, which is a lot earlier than expected.

Q.テつ Where do we go from here?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ I actually would answer a couple questions as I answer your questions as well.
I would say there is no more exciting time for tennis in this country than right now and I think there's no more exciting sport than tennis in this country right now.
Some mornings I get up and I think all I can do is take it down.テつ My job as leader of Tennis Canada is to take this unbelievable success, the history that John just talked about, the decisions that Tennis Canada took eight years ago, and continue to ride that wave.
It is things like tennis development.テつ It is to continue to deploy monies into tennis development, to continue to take Francoise Abanda, the future of our country and continue to put them on the world stage.テつ We have a whole group of 14‑year‑olds who are ready to come through that pipeline and show on the world stage.
It's to continue to work with our stars today and continue to build equity in Eugenie, Milos, Vasek, even Nestor.テつ Work with Coupe Rogers, my bar is set high, how to make them more Grand Slam like.テつ While this is a phenomenal, special experience, I think we can make them better and better.
Finally, back to John's point earlier, more racquets in more hands more often.テつ I am so sure that Eugenie and Milos are inspiring a whole new generation of children to play tennis.テつ They're inspiring a whole new generation of tennis fans.
So with that, as we have more people playing tennis more often, we end up with a healthier country.

Q.テつ How does having stars of Eugenie's stature and Milos' stature, how does that change the life of a business executive?テつ How does that translate into your activities?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ Yes, business is all about relationships, right?テつ So it is truly the relationship that I have with Genie, with her mom, with her agent, with her team.テつ Together we work to figure out how do we figure out that Genie is doing the best she can do?テつ We give her all the tools she needs to win.テつ And, in fact, she's going to be a Grand Slam champion.

Q.テつ I meant for you.
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ I have the best job on earth.テつ I have the best job on earth.テつ So because we have these stars that the world recognizes, we're able to attract government monies, certainly federal monies, provincial monies, municipal monies.テつ As John said earlier, we're so grateful for governments coming onboard and helping to support this sport in the country.テつ For sure, in addition to that private sector monies.
So sponsors are interested in being attached to and riding the wave off our sport.テつ Sponsors are interested in either sponsoring those athletes themselves or tennis in general, helping us to create more tennis stars.
As we raise the profile of this sport, as I said we have more players, more fans.テつ Having more players and more fans means there's a whole lot more attraction to drawing sponsorship and public sector monies.

Q.テつ From a cynical perspective, was this always the plan, to be able to turn on investment in some of these kids?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ We were hoping.テつ There was no assurance, no guarantee.テつ All you can do is hope.
If you look back how many years, 20, 25, 30 years, we remember very promising young players that never made it.テつ They never made it to the next step.テつ What we are witnessing this year is a very pleasant surprise.

Q.テつ Is the hope that it takes on a momentum of its own, the 14‑year‑olds come through?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ I'll tell you a story.テつ I was at a corporate board meeting late last week.テつ We went for lunch after the meeting.テつ There were 10 of us around the table, 10 directors.テつ We would never discuss tennis.テつ I didn't raise it.テつ They did.テつ For 20 minutes they talked about tennis.テつ They asked questions about tennis.
What does that mean?テつ They're fans.テつ They're potential fans.テつ For the tournament in Quテδゥbec City, to the Rogers Cup in Toronto, the kids, the grandkids, so on.

Q.テつ You've already seen Michael Downey gone.テつ Is there a lot of pressure on your staff or is there a fear that other countries will come and try to take staff that built this thing and are you doing anything to make sure they stay here?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ Kelly, you answer that.テつ You're going to stay, right?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ I am not going anywhere because I have the best job on earth (smiling).
It is my job as a leader of Tennis Canada to be sure when we think about our stakeholders, we want each one of them to feel special and our employees are at the core of all of that.
So it is really important for me to be sure that our employees have their hearts and their souls and their passion attached to what we're doing.テつ I actually think if we got their hearts and souls, it would be difficult to recruit them away.
I work very hard again with relationships, making sure that each of our employees, including our world renowned coaches, come to work every day and they feel excited to be here and they love what we're doing, that they believe in our vision, they buy into the mission, they feel like arm in arm we're going to go down and knock down walls, including LP.
It is the best team in an organization I've ever led, I would tell you that.
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ The board is very committed, the board of directors.テつ We're all volunteers.テつ Directors have gone to make their own way to Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Israel, Serbia, Tokyo, Quテδゥbec City.テつ Every director's passion is about tennis.テつ I think we're all to some extent tennis players, but we're all passionate about the sport.

Q.テつ Why do you think the game model has had so much success compared to the Americans?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ I don't know.テつ All I can do is summarize what we've done, how we did it, in what context.
There's no guarantee going forward.テつ If you remember well, let's take Sweden, for instance, you remember Bjorn Borg, you remember Mats Wilander, you remember Jonas Bjorkman, Joachim Nystrom, others.テつ Some were No.1, others were highly ranked.テつ Who is from Sweden these days?
We can't sit on our laurels at any time.テつ There's no guarantee.テつ We're happy to be where we are, but it's an ongoing challenge.
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ I think it will require ongoing investment to be sure that we continue to up the game.
I spoke with Novak Djokovic the other day when he attended our press conference.テつ He just said that the sport has changed.テつ Years ago, people would come off the court and have a cigarette.テつ Today every athlete is diligent in terms of everything that goes into their body.
Nutrition, mental health, full physical health, all of those components add up to sports science.テつ More and more we need to be thinking about the sports science and continue to invest in sports science for our athletes.
The other thing I would say, in addition to what John just mentioned, is it's really important that Tennis Canada doesn't look like we take all this credit.テつ We did not do this alone.
I think we've created a system that is very inclusive.テつ We work very hard to work with private coaches, private academies, private clubs with the provinces, territories, federations.テつ They're all part of this system.テつ I consider us sort of a tennis family.テつ But at its core, these really phenomenal athletes.テつ You have to have the athletes first who are fierce competitors.
What Tennis Canada is trying to do is lead the system around those athletes to be successful at the other end.テつ Our national training centers are huge components of that tennis system.テつ We need to continue to invest in sports science and that system because it will take all of us together to continue to produce Eugenie, Milos, Vasek, Daniel.

Q.テつ Does it surprise you at all that Canada is having success and the USA hasn't?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ Yes, it's surprising.テつ It's surprising.テつ But the U.S. is going to bounce back.テつ You remember Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi.テつ There's a lull.テつ Not going to last forever.テつ One of these days we're going to see U.S. players pop up again.

Q.テつ You have regional training centers, new facilities in the maritimes, three or four indoors clubs.テつ Has the number of players increased?テつ Is there any thought given to having a second national training center?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ Not for the time being.テつ For the time being, we are where we're at.テつ We can take a limited number of players, 14, give or take one or two.テつ We'd like to see more facilities, more indoor facilities across the country.
So to the extent that we can help out at Tennis Canada, we will.

Q.テつ Obviously you have Milos and Eugenie who have made it, are coming through.テつ Is there a plan to protect these players from all the pressures that come with stardom or is that up to them and their entourage?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ So many of us play a role.テつ Obviously their parents are at the core.テつ We work very closely with our players' parents because in our sport players are quite young.テつ They also have their team around them that also plays a role in helping them navigate these waters.
We work very closely with the WTA and the ATP.テつ They have rising star programs where they also help young athletes as they take the rise.テつ Then Tennis Canada plays a role.
We play a role from many different angles actually.テつ But it's relationships.テつ I have a relationship.テつ Then on the tennis development side we have coaches that play a role, working with their coaches, working with them.
It takes a village to keep our athletes healthy and well as they navigate these waters to stardom actually.

Q.テつ How many 14‑year‑olds do you have coming through?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ We have identified 10 high‑potential 14‑year‑olds right now.テつ We talk about them in terms of tennis development, each of them, where they're at in their development.テつ Obviously we don't make any predictions.テつ But we work with each one of them individually to try to figure out how best to develop their talents, see if some of them can be on the world stage at some point in the next five or six years.

Q.テつ Is there a danger when you identify 10 14‑year‑olds of missing some kids that develop late?
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ These are the kids that are in our program.テつ Again, we think about our tennis development family.テつ We work with private clubs, coaches, academies, because there will be some kids not in our national training centers.

Q.テつ We have 14‑year‑old kids that win the Orange Bowl and never are heard of again.
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ That's why it's very important.

Q.テつ Greg Rusedski was nothing at 14.
KELLY MURUMETS:テつ Right.テつ It's a great point.テつ That's why it's really important that we think about the whole system.テつ We're working with private coaches and academies to identify kids at whatever age they sort of peak and to work with them.
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ It's an ongoing list.テつ At every board meeting, it's interesting, we ask them to give us the list of the most promising.テつ The meeting following, you may have deleted one or two names and added others.テつ That's the only way to stay on top of it.

Q.テつ Before this 10‑year program started, there was a lot of talk of the need to develop tennis in Canada and nothing was done.テつ Why did it take so long before you made these decisions?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ I was not there 10 years ago, but I know three or four people came on the board of directors around 2003 to 2004.テつ They really wanted to change things.テつ They had a vision.テつ That's when they hired Michael Downey.
Of course, the results don't come immediately.テつ But once we had those international coaches that were able to identify new talent that we were going to support.

Q.テつ Does this mean that all it takes is the will of people who have a vision more than anything else?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ It's like any firm or company.テつ If you want to take a turn and change things, you need a vision.

Q.テつ You were saying $3 million was not enough at the time.テつ What would you need today to be able to support all of the talent?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ Well, we have now $12 million, but it has to continue.テつ We still need more high‑level coaches who would need to follow the players week after week.
At the time of Milos, what we used to do is send them to Spain.テつ We did that for Milos.テつ He played with the best Spanish players like Verdasco, Ferrer, Nadal and the like.
Louis Borfiga was able to put in the minds of players that it wasn't enough playing a good match, but what they had to do was win.

Q.テつ How many athletes do you have in those centers now?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ We have six boys and six girls.テつ They are around 12 to 15 years old.テつ So we're speaking about a dozen or so.
But, of course, what we demand is a certain level.テつ If there are more players able to reach that level, around 14, for example, we would just make arrangements to have them, too.

Q.テつ Is it surprising to see Eugenie's success?テつ She's only 20 years old.
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ If you look at the statistics, you'll see she won Wimbledon juniors two years ago, then she made it to the WTA.テつ Is this normal?テつ Well, no.テつ What we can say is it's not often that we see that.テつ It is not a logical path to follow.

Q.テつ How much money do you need per year to support an athlete?
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ We always hesitate in giving figures.テつ But along the years we support the talent as best as we can.

Q.テつ Because sometimes the parents don't have the money.テつ It takes a lot of money to support a young player.
JOHN LeBOUTILLIER:テつ Well, something is very important here.テつ We talk with the parents and we ask them the question when the player is 17:テつ Do the players and the child want the child to have a career in tennis?テつ It's up to the parents to decide.
If the parents say okay, then we support the child.テつ We also tell them that if it fails, we will help the child to obtain a grant to be able to attend a U.S. university because school results are important, too.テつ There's only a limited number of players who can really have a career in this sport.

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