In conversation with Sam Sumyk: "We coaches are not protected in any way"

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In conversation with Sam Sumyk: "We coaches are not protected in any way"

This is part one of a two-part interview with coach Sam Sumyk. Tennis has battened its hatches in trying to overcome the health hazard enveloping the world now. Not only have the players been left without options but the lower-order players are also struggling to do without remuneration to tide them over in this near wartime-like situation.

TennisWorld USA got a chance to speak with Sam Sumyk on the subject. The French coach opened the conversation by acknowledging that tennis was just one of the various entities whose continuity had been disrupted by Coronavirus.

Adding that the suspension of the tour was “absolutely understandable” under the circumstances, Sumyk broadened the context of the topic. Sumyk pointed out coaches and others involved in the players’ coaching team were facing the same plight as the players with the tours momentarily paused now.

“It is not only for players, (but) it is also for some coaches, for the physios, fitness trainers, everybody that is, kind of, around an athlete,” he said. Pointing out this fact, however, did not cloud Sumyk’s objectivity regarding the severity of the problem, and prioritising it over professional tennis.

“Yes, it is difficult but again, we have to go through the storm and the priority is to go through the storm and stay as healthy as possible. Then, we will start thinking about work again”. Vis-à-vis work and its restarting, Sumyk said it would make everyone associated with the sport happy if the season were to kick-off again in July, following the second extension to its lockdown.

However, Sumyk was quick to elaborate that this happiness did have a catch. “I just hope we are not rushing. Everything is safe before we start something again,” he said. “And, once it is safe, I think people will try to get back to normality as fast as possible because that’s what will make them comfortable, and everybody wants to be in (a) comfortable situation”.

Are Tennis Unions the Future of the Game? Before the stopping of the game in March, albeit tennis unions had been discussed as a potentiality there were misgivings about its inception as a bona fide pillar supporting tennis’ coming times.

“I believe it would be very interesting to have or to create a kind of a union, a kind of a united group,” Sumyk said, welcoming the prospect of having a tennis union. But, for him, the need for a group to be formed to put forth tennis’ parties’ interests is felt by coaches as much as the players.

That is because, Sumyk feels that players have a representation – a voice to speak up for them – in the ATP and WTA. “But coaches,” he introspected, “We have no conversation, we are not protected in any way when we are working with an athlete… It would be very good to see emerge a kind of a union, a group that tries for the best interests of coaches and for the best interests of tennis”.

Asked to opine on the reasons why a union would work positively, Sumyk replied that opinions made collectively outweighed those that were made in an individual capacity. “I always believed that (a union) would create a kind of force… So, you will be also in a good place to share a lot of opinions and ideas and that is a good start”.

Yet, the 53-year-old did not want the emergence of a union to remain confined to being just the start. What mattered to him, he said, was that those carrying out the governance of this said union – whenever it came to be – were neutral.

Specifying his preferences for the right person to helm this guild, Sumyk observed, “(They) shouldn’t be a coach, (they should be) people in tennis maybe but neutral people (who) have absolutely no interest in that particular situation”.

How and where this ideation will determine tennis’ future – not just from Sumyk’s perspective but also his colleagues’ – remains a necessary thread to pick up. Now, during the ongoing forced off-season and later, in the immediate aftermath, and the long-term, once tennis resumes. Photo Credit: LireLactu (Google)