Top international coaches say positive change must happen now in Norwegian tennis
Coaches Tiago Bartolo and Reno Manne in an article published yesterday by TV 2 in Norway have been openly critical of the Norwegian Tennis Federation.
But Trondhjems Tennis Club does not recognize the criticism and describes the association as "open and accessible".
"Many generations of players were wasted".
"They control the sport like a mafia".
"They need to find out what" democratic "means."
"You need to have the right people to get support."
The controversy surrounding Norwegian tennis does not seem to be quieting down any time soon, despite a Friday announcement being issued stating that an independent review of the Norwegian Tennis Federation should now be conducted.
The quotes above belong to two international coaches, who criticised the NTF after being contacted and interviewed by TV 2 journalists.
According to TV 2 Norway, The Norwegian Tennis Federation refused to respond to the criticism, stating that in the future they would rather spend their time preparing a thorough investigation.
TV 2 has also contacted several clubs in Norway to get their views on the matter, but only Trondhjems Tennisklubb has responded.
Reno Manne is a well known international coach, he was previously a student, coach and agent for the famous IMG Tennis Academy in Florida. Manne has had a successful coaching career having worked with and coached 6 world #1 players.
Manne lived in Norway part of the year from 1993-2013.
-Tennis in Norway has great potential, but there is an unculture there, Manne told TV 2 Norway from his Florida residence.
-Things just aren't going right. It's like a mafia culture in my opinion, so to speak.
Alexander Kjaer was banned from Norwegian cycling for serious cheating - months later he is given the job as CEO for the Norwegian Tennis Federation.
A small group has far too much power over what happens in Norwegian Tennis. Coaches in Norway are afraid to speak out, it's not right or good. People should not be afraid to talk. Manne went on to say.
-The way forward for Norwegian tennis is for the clubs to decide Now is the time for the clubs, parents and players to decide who they want running their Federation and Norwegian tennis. Now it must be done.
You have a secretary general who is now gone because he went into buildings he should not have been going into during a national lockdown, this was after he himself issued those mandates.
He was given the job as CEO for the NTF after he was banned from Norwegian cycling after being caught seriously cheating. And yet he gets the job, how did that happen?
It's not personal to him or anyone else, but now it's time for change, says the American.
A number of incidents and accusations against NTF have been published in Norwegian media in recent weeks.
Perhaps the most attention has been given to the issues surrounding former CEO Alexander Kjær. First, as NRK revealed, he was seen walking into the tennis hall he himself had closed due to the corona pandemic.
Then TV 2 found out that he had been suspended from Norwegian cycling only months before he got the job in the NTF.
Reno Manne went on to tell TV 2 from his Florida residence in the USA.
-I have read what is happening in Norway, because many people have sent it to me. I have seen press articles and what the Norwegian Federation itself has written.
They say they are a democratic organization that has nothing to hide. That's simply not true in my opinion. Just not true. They might need to find out and document what "democratic" really means.
The democratic way is to show everything and put everything on the table. And it doesn't always happen. You can't have an organization that controls tennis sports like the mafia. That's how I would describe it.
I'm just waiting for Joe Pesci to show up on their Facebook page! continues Manne.
On Wednesday this week, the union presented portions of the accounts for the years 2017-2019 for TV 2 and several other media houses. Overview of travel expenses, job descriptions and the like were presented, though not at the entry level, which means that they can show at a later date if there is interest in it.
-They supported their own:
Tiago Bartolo worked as a tennis coach in Norway between 2012-2018, but does not describe his experience as a happy one.
-During those years I was involved in producing some of the best players in Norway. Every time I asked for support, I got rejected.
I am disappointed, because I felt we wasted many generations that could have taken Norway to a new level. There are many players in Norway who could have been great, he says by phone from Portugal.
Bartolo worked for the tennis clubs at Bygdøy and Nordstrand, and says that during his time in Norway he trained 11 top 10 players in Norway and three players who won international tournaments.
-I would describe the culture as a place where you have to be in with the right people to succeed and get support. If you're in with them, then you're in the club, he says, and continues:
- I asked for financial support for some of the best players in Norway. They said they had no money. It always surprised me that they no longer helped the clubs with the large structure they had.
They supported their own and Casper Ruud. The others didn't have a chance.
According to Bartolo, it was difficult to ascertain who received financial support and what the criteria was for that.
- A lot has to change. It must be open and clear to everyone what the rules of the game are. I have said this to the NTF.
It must be clear who can receive support. Everyone should have AN opportunity, but that is not the case, he claims.
-They do a lot right
As mentioned above, Trondhjems Tennisklubb does not agree with all the criticism directed at the Norwegian Tennis Federation at this time.
Chairman Audun Ø Thorshaug says that the federation "is doing well for us".
- I do not recognize in a description of "mafia". I consider them to be open and very accessible to us. Sports Manager Øivind Sørvald, intern CEO Aslak Paulsen and the others are a phone call away.
I feel they are helpful and the coach conferences with Sørvald are good. There is also the same impression outside of Norway. Very much is being done correctly in Norwegian tennis.
They manage to bring out Casper Ruud, while the sport is growing. Much is done right, he says.
At the same time, he supports the cleaning up of bonus agreements for employees and such things.
- We work in sports after all, so it is good to have a review. But it didn't reveal anything that made us jump in the chair, exactly.
And the criticism against Sørvald is excessive - it is not very extravagant what he is doing, he says about the criticism of the sports director who has appeared, especially Dagbladet and NRK in recent days.
TennisChitChat reached out to both coaches Tiago Bartolo and Reno Manne for further comment on the TV2 Norwegian article and their comments to TV 2 journalists.
Bartolo we were unable to reach at this time but we were able to receive feedback from Reno Manne in the USA.
Manne who as previously mentioned above lived part of the year in Norway from 1993 to 2013, according to TV 2.
During his time in Norway Manne worked with some top Norwegian juniors in Norway including top junior Saraina Reinertsen.
Manne took Norwegian juniors and coaches on free training trips to Florida as well as offering 12-14 free weeks per year to the Norwegian Tennis Federation when he was still involved with IMG in Florida.
Manne sent these comments replying back to TennisChitChat.
Manne took several Norwegian junior players and coaches on free trips to Florida for training from 2010.
-I want to firstly comment on the comments made by Trondhjems Tennis Club's chairman Audun Ø Thorshaug. I am happy he is pleased with the cooperation he has been receiving from the NTF. That is very positive and i'm sure everyone is happy for him and his club.
However, that is his experience, are other clubs and coaches having the same experience? It's easy to give people praise when your getting what you want from them....right?
He says they are all just a phone call away.
Yet I still have Norwegian tennis parents with top ranked Norwegian junior players sending me video footage of their children to analyse for them. I'm being told they send in emails to the NTF but can't get a response to coaching questions.
Thorshaug says, if I am correct in understanding one of his responses, he apparently states as I understand it, is that nothing that has come out recently in the Norwegian media has made anyone jump out of their chairs?
Well, I don't know if that's because he's maybe super glued himself to his chair? It certainly has not been good to read at all.
I was sent the recent NRK televised debate which I watched. I thought that debate and the issues pointed out by Thomas Wetergreen indicated that change is needed. Man wrote to TennisChitChat.
Manne took Norwegian junior Sarina Reinertsen to Florida to train with Nick Bollettier. Photo Norwegian Dagbladet.)
Manne went on to say.
-I want to lastly comment on one other thing that was also written in that TV 2 Norwegian article. Chairman Audun Ø Thorshaug mentioned sports director Sorvold.
This my opinion and I stress my opinion. Sorvold is sports director of the NTF. Now I understand there is a budget allocated by the NTF for, how do you call it correctly?...for networking?
I believe Sorvold travels to events and PTR stuff using this budget...if I am correct. So here's my deal on that. I am a qualified performance coach with the PTR.
I hear from other PTR coaches here in the USA that he talks about apps and his ability to video analyse and so forth. Recently he engaged in a Orange Coach initiative which has in my opinion absolutely nothing to do with Norwegian tennis.
Why is he and why was he not funnelling that energy and focusing more on Norwegian tennis?..said Manne.
-In my opinion and I clearly state this my my opinion, I have seen examples of Sorvold's tennis analysis and so called expertise. I don't mean to be rude I really don't but can I be honest and say that I am somewhat sceptical that expertise is the right word to use here?
There is no point is talking anymore about who has done what or who got bonuses. That was clearly wrong and it's all come out now in the Norwegian media. However the way forward must and surely be immediate change.
You can't say change is needed and then keep the same people in positions of trust. There must be a clean out of the NTF and that has to happen sooner rather than later.
As unfortunate as it is I feel Norwegian tennis must move forward with fresh new faces in the NTF, said Manne.
Manne has done live shows in New York with tennis legend Nick Bollettieri.
-If you read what Tiago Bartolo said to TV 2 Norway that many generations were wasted, Tiago is a talented coach and those words are painfully true.
It makes me sad to my core.
I can't tell you enough how true I feel that is, that many generations were wasted in Norway.
If change does actually occur in the right way, I guarantee more top players will emerge from Norway over time. The potential is there and always has been.
Let coaches and parents and whoever else state their opinions without being afraid to do so. Isn't that a democratic way? To let people voice their opinions?
When I lived in Norway I had so many sleepless nights stressing about the state of Norwegian tennis. It almost made me ill at times.
Norway is a country dear to my heart and always will be.
I would love nothing more than to see a brighter future for Noreagin tennis, and hey if change does happen I am only happy to help if needed.
Given all the recent attention directed towards Norwegian tennis during the last weeks change seems imminent in one way or another. A positive focus and outlook will eventually prevail out of all of this.
No doubt the speculations will continue for some time to come. People will want to have their say and voice their opinions.
That's all good, that's the way forward, to listen to people's opinions, let them have their say and when everyone is done, find solutions together.
Teamwork must be the way forward. The dust will settle and the horizon will be a bright one.
TennisChitChat wishes the NTF and Norwegian tennis all the best moving forward. This has been a fascinating story for us to have followed and I think we have learned a lesson or two along the way.