As the world’s sporting community marked the International Olympic Committee’s Safe Sport Day last week, International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) team members contributed to the cause in the Czech city of Prostějov.
Rounding off a tour of six events in six days - across three different countries - the ITIA joined the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for their World Junior Tennis Finals, which saw 16 teams of the most promising 14-and-under players converge on the Czech clay courts in one of the highlights of the junior tennis calendar.
A thoroughly competitive competition in the home city of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova saw the host nation secure a historic double in both the girls’ and boys’ tournaments. While those memories will surely live long in the minds of the players, the off-court education around key themes will also prove important in their future professional careers.
On Safe Sport Day, the ITF’s safeguarding team kicked off an education event on the tournament grounds with some vital messaging on staying safe as a young player on tour, before the ITIA delivered an interactive session on all things integrity. The session centred on making good decisions and developing an understanding of their responsibilities as a player including what to expect from their first anti-doping test experience.
The engagement in the Czech Republic follows hot on the heels of another positive collaboration with the ITF, with online integrity education modules becoming mandatory for all ITF juniors.
Matt Byford, Head of ITF Juniors, spoke positively about the ITIA and its role in helping to provide a full range of education – both on and off the court – for the next generation of professional players.
He said: “The ITIA brings considerable expertise and knowledge in all tennis integrity matters, and we are grateful for their commitment and support to ITF Junior Team Competitions.
“The players and team captains at the 2023 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals have this week benefitted from valuable face-to-face education which informs and safeguards them as they progress to the highest levels of our sport.”
Interventions with the world’s top junior talent are fundamental to the ITIA’s strategy to prevent integrity issues in the professional game.
The visit to the Czech Republic was one of a number of educational sessions, drop-ins, one-to-ones and question-and-answer sessions delivered by the ITIA to kick off August.
Alongside the 100 players met with in Prostějov during the World Junior Tennis Finals festivities, the ITIA also delivered workshops to over 100 players at the Tennis Europe Junior School events in the German cities of Dueren and Rennigen last week.
At all three events, the ITIA also took time to meet with officials, including 15 of Europe’s most promising young officials as part of the ITF’s Youth Initiative. These efforts take place in parallel to continuous one-to-one education with emerging professionals, including those on the ATP College Accelerator program, with sessions taking place at the ITF 25k events in Roehampton, England.
Targeted education for players and officials just making their way into the professional sport is fundamental to the ITIA’s strategy to prevent integrity issues on tour, as Matt Perry, Senior Manager for Education and Training, explains.
He said: “Structured engagement with juniors and new professionals is key to achieving our ambition of a clean sport. It is important that young players and those transitioning into the professional game understand what will be expected of them, what the rules are, and who they can reach out to for guidance in the future.
“More than that, though, by meeting with players and officials right at the beginning of their career, we are able to build relationships that hopefully last through the entirety of their time on tour.
“Those relationships are vital, and we’re committed to building networks throughout tennis to ensure that anyone involved in the sport can approach us to ask questions, or feel as though they can trust the ITIA to support them in reporting a corrupt approach or seeking advice.”
Published 14 August 2023 12:00