Why we are independent of the LTA
To avoid any misconception, we are not "against" the LTA. We recognise the tough task they face, very often in no-win situations. They have some excellent staff who are doing their best for British Tennis under difficult conditions.
That said, Tennis Avenue Academy has always remained independent of the LTA for a single reason: to insulate ourselves (with our long-term methods) and our players from the constant change and upheaval prescribed by every new blueprint or initiative.
The new LTA Player Pathway is not a concept dissimilar to the system that prevailed in the late 80s and early 90s when a place at the elite LTA School at Bisham Abbey was considered the holy grail for the very best juniors to aspire to. The TA Director of Tennis in fact attended the LTA School between 1987-1989.
Patrice Hagelauer arrived from France in 1999 and decided it would be better to try and replicate the French system of having local clubs at the forefront of developing junior talent. He then helped establish four Regional Academies for the very best juniors, as the consensus swung against children having to move too far away from home.
Some years later in October 2006 under Roger Draper, a year before the National Training Centre opened, the LTA published their new Blueprint for British Tennis, which included this line (page 7):
"LTA National Training will be decentralised in order to provide more direct support at club level, putting our resources to work where they will do most good."
At the same time a "sophisticated Talent ID system", borrowed from Belgium and driven by Steven Martens, was introduced to harvest players into Regional and National training programs and squads.
In 2014 Bob Brett arrived with the idea that the LTA should play a supporting and mentoring role to successful coaches and programs, rather than play the central role in developing players. It was an idea that our academy could have worked with had he not departed within a matter of months.
Interim Performance Director Peter Keen devised a new Blueprint in 2016 to scrap the Talent ID system (introduced by the previous Blueprint) and return to having Regional Centres.
In 2019 current Performance Director Simon Timson extended the idea to introduce two new National Academies at the top of a structure that also contains Regional Player Development Centres and Local Player Development Centres - marking a return to the hierarchical philosophy and centralised control over top players that was seen in the 80s and 90s. Players are to be shepherded through the system of County, Regional and National (NAGP) training - with ALL players expected to follow an identical Pathway (that is yet to prove itself).
The LTA system appears to have come a full circle over three decades, and there is no knowing in which direction it will head next. Our players have only one small precious window of opportunity to try and make it in tennis and we prefer not to subject them to such an ever-changing system.
The LTA Player Pathway might indeed end up working very well for certain players, but there will no doubt be many others for whom it will not work so well.
We believe that many British juniors desperately need a strong, viable and most importantly stable alternative - and we are here to provide it.
Remaining independent of the LTA also means that we can fully develop into an international academy that has the best foreign talent training with the best British talent.