The International Tennis Federation’s Executive Director of Development Dave Miley has hailed the Tennis Federation of Cambodia as a good example to all emerging countries in the region for how limited resources can be harnessed in a short span of time to get tangible results.
“The object of this visit was to see first hand all the good things I had heard about Cambodian tennis and, I must say, I am impressed by what I have seen here,” Miley said at Preah Norodom School in Phnom Penh yesterday where he took part in an hour-long mini tennis programme for students.
“We at the ITF are striving hard to reposition tennis and our junior tennis initiative forms a vital part,” added the sports official.
“We have launched Tennis 10s with slower balls and smaller courts, and to make this project more competitively attractive we are enforcing a change of rule starting January next year that all under 10 events must be played with low pressure red, orange and green balls, thus doing away with traditional yellow balls.”
The man who is the head of all developmental activities at ITF with the exception of professional tennis, mingled freely with young students yesterday, trading a few shots with them on five makeshift courts set up at the school’s playing arena.
He said the TFC has shown remarkable resilience in bringing about a positive change in the sport’s image. “[The TFC] are on the right path and I think Cambodia is a good model for others to emulate,” said Miley, who was accompanied by TFC Secretary General Tep Rithivit.
“We at the ITF will extend all possible help for the Federation to grow and expand. I am glad to learn that the TFC is taking this [mini tennis] programme to more and more schools and spreading them in provinces and this is the best way of nurturing talent.”
Miley, 53, was born in Jamaica and relocated to Ireland before pursuing a tennis career at college in America. He played with a degree of success as a player before turning his thoughts to coaching, and has been working for the ITF in various capacities since 1992.
Later yesterday, Miley paid a visit to the National Training Centre, which has been built with partial financial support from the ITF Grand Slam development fund.
“Investment in infrastructure is very important and TFC should be proud of what they have here,” said Miley, praising the quality of the courts and players’ facilities.
The ITF chief met with all the members of the TFC coaching staff and was briefed on the various aspects of the training centre by TFC Technical Director and national team head coach Braen Aneiros. He also met all the national junior and senior team members before heading to the National Sports Complex to take a look at the tennis courts next to Olympic Stadium.
Miley has a scheduled meeting with the National Olympic Commitee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun today, with the eight courts now unused by the TFC at the stadium potentially a focal point for discussion.
A piece of heartening news for the TFC came in the form of Miley’s assurance of potential funding for a lighting project at the NTC. “We will definitely look into it and also look at ways of helping TFC to create more courts in the country,” he added.
“The doors are open for any talented Cambodian player to get into our Pyramid of Opportunity programme or the ITF Touring Team project, or get access to travel grants.
“For example, Cyprus today has someone like Marcus Baghdatis. ITF supported him as a junior. We supported Sania Mirza and Yuki Bhambri of India and now we have that sensational Lithuanian junior [Ricardas Berankis] causing ripples.
“I am not saying ITF created them. But we have helped them to be what they are, and that is what we will do to any deserving Cambodian player as well.”
According to Miley, the creation of a new training centre in Bangkok should be very helpful to players from all the neighbouring countries.
“In order to meet the changing face of tennis, a coach’s education programme is very crucial and we would be glad to extend this facility to Cambodia so that it could create its own national coaching structure,” he said.