INTERVIEW: Egypt needs to expand its base, change mentality to promote tennis, says Couraud

Ghada Abdel-Kader , Tuesday 1 Feb 2022

Ahram Online speaks with Frank Couraud, the Development Manager of Training Centres and Events at International Tennis Federation (ITF), who was hired by the Egyptian Tennis Federation (ETF) to develop sport in the country.

Frank Couraud
Frank Couraud

Frank Couraud, who has been appointed by the ETF in October 2021 as a director of development and planning, is planning to implement a comprehensive strategy to promote tennis in Egypt.

He had previously served as the administrator of development projects at the ITF for 13 years and contributed to the implementation of development projects worldwide.

He has worked in several projects and programmes in the Arab world including in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar and the United Arab of Emirates.

He came to Egypt for the first time in 1988 to give a training course for coaches. "It was very interesting. Since then, I have visited Egypt several times. It is a great place with lots of activities," he said.

Couraud's main objective is to increase the number of tennis players in Egypt.

"This is a priority. We must provide support to the clubs and improve the cooperation between ETF and the clubs. The clubs are the backbone of tennis activity. They have been doing a fantastic job," the Frenchman said.

Couraud spent two months making assessments, attending events, watching players, meeting coaches, and holding discussions with parents and sub coaches. He visited many clubs in several governorates to have a clear view of the situation.  

"We have to listen to the people who have been in the field of tennis for a long time. Their experience and knowledge are very important," he added.

Couraud believes there are four pillars for his strategy to develop tennis in Egypt.

"It's very important to scout for talents, create the right environment for them, provide support and the right training and establish development centers and facilities," he explained.

He will hold a training camp in the coming weeks for some promising players (eight boys and eight girls) to work with them and their private coaches to ensure they are on the right path.

Support and training are crucial factors that have been deficient. According to data provided by the ETF, 32 percent of Egyptian tennis players have quit the game.

"It is quite alarming that we really need to react fast. Our main focus will be the specialisation of coaches in the youth category. There will be world-class experts who will conduct seminars that will be attended by many tennis coaches," Couraud said.

"Some clubs have a lot of coaches but they are not certified. Clubs needs to have only certified coaches."

The fourth factor is the need to establish training centres, he added.

"ITF is accepting requests from local federations to open new centres under its supervision. Federations should send their projects to be considered. Egypt has already submitted its request and a delegation from ITF experts should visit the country to inspect and discuss the project," Couraud stated.

"Egypt is shortlisted and if this step is completed it would be amazing."

Couraud sees good opportunities in Egyptian tennis but believes the country's base and choices must be expanded.

"Egypt has several players in the top 100 in the ITF juniors' world rankings. It seems Egyptian players are very competitive at the age of 14 but for some reasons they tend to drop off and not continue to progress to the level they should be," he said.

"There are different reasons. One of them is the pressure of schooling at age 15, 16 and 17. Probably, there is not enough awareness of the potential of a tennis career. We need to change this mentality.

"Next to these, there are several players with more talent and ambitions. Only 600 players are registered in the ETF. We need to introduce the practicing of tennis in primary schools. We should not miss the new generation."

Couraud believes Egypt currently has a good potential to build upon, with some stars already the source of inspiration.

"Egypt has a long history in tennis. Ismail El-Shafei, Mayar Sherif and Mohamed Safwat have reached the highest level. They are role models," he said.

"Sherif is 25 years old and has already done great. She is still young and seems to have a bright future in front of her. Safwat is in the top 200 in the men's world ranking. He still have a chance to get into the top 100."

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