From the tropical climate of the South American coast to the springtime snow of Scandinavia, the International Tennis Integrity Agency’s programme of outreach and education has been making an impact in all conditions.

With three international visits across two continents in the past few weeks alone, the ITIA’s mission to be at the forefront of engagement within the tennis family has taken a big step up ahead of the European summer season.

On-site visits to Ecuador, Finland and Spain have seen members of the ITIA’s education and investigation teams deliver a series of presentations to over 100 professionals at various stages in their tennis officiating careers.

Delivery at the ITF’s White Badge Officiating Schools in Guayaquil, Ecuador and Vierumäki, Finland underpinned a busy fortnight of engagement for the ITIA, as well as a trip to Barcelona to speak at the ITF Officiating School for high-level chair umpires, chief umpires and Bronze Badge referees.

Richard Sackey-Addo, the ITIA’s Education Project Manager, led sessions in Finland and Spain. He said: “It’s been a very productive few weeks for us, and it’s really encouraging to be able to engage with so many officials as part of their journey.

“We’ve had great engagement with stakeholders on our visits so far this year, which I think is a sign of the growing trust in the ITIA and the strength of our relationships. We are empowering this community to see themselves as an extension of our team as the eyes and ears on the ground at tournaments week in, week out, and providing decision-making frameworks to make the right choice, even in difficult moments.”

Meanwhile, the visit to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second biggest city and economic capital, also included a meeting with the president of the Ecuadorian Tennis Federation, former Davis Cup captain Danilo Carrera Drouet.

Sophie Pink, Education Co-ordinator and John Nolan, Senior Investigator held sessions in Guayaquil – where an ITF W25 tournament was also taking place. The ITIA pair remained in the Ecuadorian port city while the competition progressed, ensuring presence at tournament briefings and the ITF Officiating Central & South American Regional Refresher School.

Sophie explains: “It was a really positive visit. We engaged with chief umpires, chair umpires and referees, among others, and it was received very well.”

While providing up-to-date and appropriate guidance for officials is a vital element of the ITIA’s education work, the opportunity to engage informally with members of the tennis family in the days that followed was of equal importance; with friendly faces from the ITIA sharing conversation with tournament officials, ITF players and their friends, families and coaches throughout the course of the event.

“The officials were really engaged in the topics and wanted to talk more about creating an environment they could trust in the officiating world”, said Sophie. “They were alert, they were willing to listen, and more people, even those who were not officials – like parents of players and players themselves – came forward to chat more about what we do as the week wore on.”

The combination of education from Sophie, a qualified tennis official herself, and John, one of the ITIA’s most experienced investigators, offered insight into both the theory and practical application of the ITIA’s work to protect our sport.

“In terms of John's experience, he would talk about more cases, which was really helpful for the officials to understand how corruption can happen, with real-life examples that could affect any one of the officials we engaged with,” said Sophie. “We talked about not only how it happens, but how to deal with it.”

The ITF’s Head of Officials, Iain Smith, said: “Receiving the information first-hand is invaluable. This provides the key message to the officials and shows the commitment from both ITF and ITIA to look after officials. The overall experience was very good for both the officials attending the school and officials working at the tournament itself, as it allows for personal interaction.

“All feedback has been very positive. The personal approach shows caring and delivers the key message of working together and that we are all looking after the officials’ interests, providing them with the tools to deal with possible issues and to emphasise the importance that this is a reality by showing examples and answering questions.”

Further engagement with the Americas is planned in the summer of 2023 as part of the ITIA’s global education programme, with members of the education team providing remote support for the Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador in June.

For more information on the broad curriculum delivered by the ITIA on behalf of the Tennis Bodies, click here.

Published 11 May 2023 12:00

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