Tennis Cambodia was given the stage to showcase its universally hailed Junior Tennis Initiative at the three-day 19th Southern and East Asian ITF regional coaches’ conference, which concluded in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Held every two years, the gathering of 262 participating coaches bettered the 2016 Beijing edition, surpassing the expectation of hosts the Hong Kong Tennis Association.
The conference featured top international speakers including ITF’S executive director of Development Dave Miley and Jofre Porta of Spain, who coached Rafael Nadal when the multiple grand slam winner was a junior.
This year the conference’s main theme was female and schools tennis, providing a forum on education in these areas for top coaches from each region. Organised with regional associations, these biennial meetings are often supported by Olympic Solidarity.
In his presentation on the final day, Setting Up the JTI Program in Cambodia, the Kingdom’s head of Junior Development Phalkun Mam, who has been part of the Kingdom’s Davis Cup team since 2013, laid out in detail how a small Southeast Asian nation of around 16 million people, with limited human resources, a paucity of courts and shoestring budgets, has put in place a juniors programme that has been creating a healthy pathway for talented players to grow in the game.
His presentation touched on similar themes to the one he made at the ITF Worldwide Participation Conference earlier this year in London, which was very well received by the global community, adding credence to the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s inaugural Award for Organisational Excellence that Cambodia was awarded ahead of some of the stronger tennis nations in the region.
“We are fortunate that the ITF individuals helping to run our Junior programme are none other than the Development Officer of South, Southeast, and East Asia, Jonathan Stubbs, and Riaan Kruger, who is the project lead for coaching at the ITF. With this steadfast support from the world’s governing body, a dedicated coaching staff and a passionate administrator of Tennis Cambodia in secretary-general Tep Rithivit, we have managed to provide the best we can to help juniors going through this initiative,” Phalkun said.
“Once again, this conference is another opportunity for us to show the world that we are very much an active tennis nation. We may not be big, we may not have numbers compared to nations with longer histories and achievements, but we are passionate nonetheless and not at all afraid to speak about our federation and the programmes we’ve been able to run in our country,” Rithivit said.
“From a practical standpoint, as the Head of Junior Development, Phalkun would be in a position to bring back a lot of the new material gained from the Regional Coaches Conference and share it with our own coaches soon.”