As the court hearings in Madrid continue in relation to the accusations from Thomas Drouet, Bernard Tomic’s French French hitting partner of about the assault from Bernard’s father John. And the enquiry in to an assault on the practice court in Monte Carlo on Bernard by his father the week previous, perhaps an equally important question comes to my mind.
In this mess of yet another father, son, coach, tennis association relationship gone wrong I wonder where Bernard sits in all of this. Is he is getting the necessary psychological support needed for a young person to continue his life in the pressure cooker of the world tennis tour?
Parents and tennis associations around the world put incredible amounts of pressure on young players to perform. They are sent on national teams to play for their country. The individual players have their own expectations to deal with let alone their team mates and country. Also things such as physical exhaustion, homesickness, schoolwork and even broken hearts that can come with being a teenager.
Just some of the questions that come straight to my mind are:
- Could this incident have been prevented?
- Has a professional mental health expert ever talked to Bernard and his father or had one offered by Tennis Australia?
- Do tennis associations have the support in place for players and parents?
- Is it their duty to do so?
- As tennis is a solo /individual sport is it up to the individual to find their own support?
- What happens when young players don’t perform or live up to expectations or get injured?
- What happens to the young person when they are dropped from the team and national squad and lose much needed sponsorship or funding to fuel their dreams?
- How damaging is this to their mental well being?
- Should young players be sent on to centre court in front of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers?
- When they finish their match what then? Do they have someone to talk to?
- Is there a professional in the mental health area available for them?
- Where is the “duty of care” from these associations?
- Have associations even considered this a necessary service?
Don’t believe that this is just a tennis issue the same thing happens across all sports in all countries. Recently a top NFL (American Football) player committed suicide to the surprise and shock of the entire nation. In my experience there has never been a proper support structure in any of the tennis associations, or for that matter any structure poor or not.
If a serviceman goes to war he needs support upon return to deal with the horrendous things they have seen. Suicide and depression are always around the corner.
Similar principles apply to sport and tennis. Surely these kids need some duty of care as well. Do we have to wait for something tragic to happen before something is put in place for young sportsmen and woman under extreme pressures?
This incident should be a wake up call to all sporting associations and / or clubs.
This is an issue close to my heart and I am doing something about it! More on that as it happens.