|Stephen Healy - President, Tennis Australia|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 04 January 2013 17:00
Stephen Healy is the President of Tennis Australia.
He was born in July 1979. He is married to Cathy and has a 15-year-old son, sale viagra Nick.
Healy has Bachelor’s degrees in both Law and Economics from the University of Sydney.
He became a partner at Gadens Lawyers and also enjoyed a playing career that saw him ranked 667 in the ATP World Rankings before embarking on a career in sports administration.
Healy was President of Northern Suburbs Tennis Association between 1990 and 1999. He also served as a member of Tennis Australia Player Development board from 1994 to 2004 and New South Wales Tennis board from 2002 until 2005.
He was appointed Vice-President of Tennis New South Wales in September 2005, before becoming President in September 2007.
He assumed his current position as President of Tennis Australia in October 2010.
Does your experience as a former player helped you in your career as a sports administrator?
Yes, absolutely. First of all, just on the player development side, I didn’t get to the highest level but I understand some of the challenges that the guys face trying to climb through the levels. It very much helps you with the grassroots side of the sport because I have met and spoken to a lot of people, played against a lot of people and you get to understand people’s problems. It’s very important to love and understand the sport to be a good administrator.
Has your law experience in any way helped you in the sports world?
The ‘words’ generally are well suited to these types of roles, in terms of understanding the constitutions and organisations. I’m a commercial lawyer so it helps in terms of understanding the commercial approach of the organisation. I’m fortunate to have a blend of tennis-playing experience and business experience, which gives me a good balance as an administrator.
What is your assessment of the sport in Australia?
In terms of grassroots, tennis was generally slow to counter some of the challenges that come with changes in lifestyle. People are particularly time-poor and we didn’t react quickly enough to some of the challenges, such as the whole thing about Generation Y not wanting to belong to things permanently. Our clubs haven’t met that challenge in terms of changing what they’re offering.
We’re going through a rebuilding phase but I’m actually optimistic about where we’re at. There is more interest in the Australian Open than any other sporting event in the country, so what we’re working with is a sport which people have a phenomenal amount of interest in. What we’ve got to do is make sure we offer something that makes people want to get out and play.
I think what we refer to as ‘hotshots’, which is the modified form of the sport, is going to make a huge amount of difference to the player base. One piece of research we’ve done indicates that if people haven’t played tennis by the age of fifteen, there’s about a 10% chance that they’ll never pick up a racket. We are very much focusing on that under-15 end and making sure that people learn and experience the sport at an early age, so there’s always a chance that they’ll come back to it. That’s a huge thing and could take another couple of years until the results show.
The other side is player development. We’ve got a number of pieces of the puzzle, but our programme needs a bit of tweaking to our programme. In the past we have been unable to transition some good juniors into seniors and we need to really buckle down and make that happen because Australia has a great history and an expectation that we can be a force in the world. We certainly got the resources to do it. We need to step up and get some results.
What is the best method to get people to pick up a racket?
In the current style of life, what you have to offer is something that is full-participation for a period they’re there in a short space of time, they want something that is social and that enables them to meet people, have some fun and enjoy it, and I think the style that we have in Australia of competitions that go all afternoon and you’re on court 84 half the time, those are just not meeting the needs of life. I think some people like playing that, but if you want to appeal to people who are time-poor you have to offer something that is efficient in time. I think that’s the challenge.
How have you built up the environment to ensure that the top echelons of the sport?
One of the most important things at the moment is clay courts and we’ve gone through a very substantial research program to see what part of clay is suitable in Australian. In the process, we’ve constructed new clay courts at Melbourne Park and there will be others that come around the country as well.
Another thing, the culture now is probably similar to what we had back in the 60s and 70s of mentally and physically tough players, who have very strong pride in the way they perform and that needs to installed in juniors all the way up to the players in the Davis Cup. Not with all players, just with some. We’ve got some work to do there at the moment.
Considering the nation’s history, is there added pressure to find the next superstar, particularly in the men’s game?
Very much so. We have an outstanding record in the game in Davis Cup, in Fed Cup, in Grand Slam and with the phenomenal interest in the game, everybody wants to see Australian players competing at the pointy end of the Grand Slams. There’s a huge amount of pressure and we’ve put in place a programme that is going to get us results in time. It’s a very difficult sport to speed up that process, you have to do things right over a long period of time and you have to attract good athletes if you’re going to have a chance to compete in what is truly a worldwide sport.