March 2, 2015
After exactly one year under her belt as Tennis Canada’s president and CEO, Kelly Murumets has gained significant knowledge on tennis, its place in the Canadian sports landscape and the direction of the organization. With a bold and exciting new identity being revealed for Tennis Canada this week, a sit-down with our leader was in order to get her perspective on the current state of Canadian tennis.
Q: Canadian tennis has been receiving a lot of acclaim here at home and internationally. How would you assess the current state of Canadian tennis?
Kelly Murumets (KM): This is a historic time for Canadian tennis. The sport is in the best place it has ever been in this country. We have two Top 10 players for the first time in history and they are being followed by a host of promising juniors in our high performance system. This is creating a buzz the likes of which we haven’t seen before and fan interest is way up. In addition, we have unprecedented coordination among our provincial associations, clubs and coaches across the country, all of whom are working together with us to grow the sport. This is resulting in record participation numbers at the grassroots level as well.
Q: Where are the challenges and opportunities as you look out 3-5 years?
KM: The challenges and the opportunities are actually one and the same. We need to figure out how to take advantage of this momentum we are experiencing now to catapult us forward and put us in good stead for the next 10 years. We know that there is a lot of competition at the grassroots level, particularly amongst kids, as to where their time and attention should go. We want to win their participation and their interest. We have the systems in place to produce champions and we currently have Canadian tennis stars. We need to take advantage of these assets and be smart about how we grow.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about Canadian tennis right now?
KM: I think the number one misconception about the sport is the idea that it is more suited towards the elite. This is simply not true anymore. Yes, there are private membership clubs that provide high-calibre services to their members. But, there are just as many, if not more, public courts across the country that require minimal to no fees that people can go play on. And for kids, there is sized-down equipment now and portable mini-nets that can be purchased in-store and set up in a driveway or in a basement. Tennis has become much more accessible to masses and we want people to realize that.
Another misconception is that as a federation, Tennis Canada is new or has just arrived. In fact, Tennis Canada is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015. We have a very strong and special history that we need to celebrate more. The systems that have brought us more success have only recently been put into place, but there is a rich Canadian tennis history that we don’t want to forget as well. This includes players like Lorne Main, Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, Grant Connell and more.
Q: Tennis Canada has great respect in some circles and is not well known in others. In your own words, who is Tennis Canada? What is the Tennis Canada mandate and sphere of influence?
KM: We are the National Sport Organization (NSO) for tennis in Canada – we are the stewards of the game. The purpose of the organization is to improve the lives of Canadians through tennis. We believe tennis can better people physically, socially and emotionally. Physically, in that it combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise along with hand-eye skills, which is particularly beneficial to children and seniors. Socially, in that healthy communities form around groups of tennis players. And emotionally, in that tennis imparts and reinforces tremendously important principles and life skills.
Our vision is to be a world-leading tennis nation, and our mandate is to pursue that vision by leading the growth of the game. We will continue to strive to be an international model for both producing top ranked players and for creating a culture around participation and interest at a grassroots level in Canada. We will consistently produce Top 100 ranked tennis athletes on the men’s and women’s singles, doubles and wheelchair circuits, as well as in juniors and seniors. We will be a World Group contesting nation in both Davis Cup and Fed Cup, and we will be medal contenders at the Olympics. We will rank among the world’s leaders for participation and interest per capita. Our governance model, systems and programs will be studies for best practices by other tennis nations.
To accomplish all of that, we will identify top talent and support those athletes in their pursuit as top-ranking tennis professionals, via world-class coaching in our regional and national training centres. We will design and administer top-shelf programs, and advocate for new and improved facilities, to increase grassroots participation. We will showcase the game to increase fan interest. And we will be the conscience and voice of the game, working with our friends, sponsors, partners, member associations, tennis tours, other federations and all levels of government to ensure tennis is supported commensurate with our contribution.
Q: What is the importance of visible leadership on the part of Tennis Canada?
KM: It is critical for Tennis Canada to lead, and to be seen as leading. This applies not only nationally but internationally as we are a very global sport. We have done this already in so many ways with some of the systems we have put in place that have produced such significant results. But in order to improve on that the sport and the industry need stewardship… and we want to provide that. The sport is stronger when we operate as one network of partners. With sponsors, provincial associations, clubs, coaches and national/international bodies all working together, we can continue to reach new heights for tennis in this country.
Q: Tennis Canada is re-branding. What are the tenets and implications of Tennis Canada’s re-brand?
KM: We are re-branding to address a number of issues and to seize the tremendous opportunity in front of us. We know there is incomplete awareness of Tennis Canada in the marketplace, and we have also evolved as an organization over the past several years. The re-brand is meant to signal our evolution and draw the tennis community’s attention to the good work we are doing.
The goal of the re-brand is to move away from an institutional brand and toward a deeply emotive brand at the heart of tennis in Canada. We wanted to make sure we built a brand based on Canadian values and principles which rang very true to tennis players and fans. These are values and principles such as family, discipline, intergenerational, excellence, perseverance, honour, pride and grace.
Q: Big focus areas appear to be advertising and digital marketing. What does “Live the Moment” mean to you?
KM: Live the Moment brings to life the key moments in tennis, from both a player and fan perspective, when your values and principles rise to the surface and where the very best of you comes to the fore. To me, Live the Moment means embracing the highs and lows, the momentum swings, and the emotion of the game, while staying true who I am as a person.
Q: What does the shift to a focus on digital marketing, including a new website, mean for players and fans?
KM: We really wanted to contemporize our engagement with the tennis community, and so a significant investment in digital, social and mobile was required. Improving access to the game for all of our supporters, from avid players to those who are new to tennis and looking to learn, was really important to us. This includes the ability to get closer to our players and to share better, more meaningful content. We are confident the new TennisCanada.com will quickly become the ‘headquarters’ for anyone seeking out Canadian tennis news, player profiles and information on the game – including the ability to find a club anywhere in the country with our new Court Finder App. Also, our renewed efforts in social media will mean more shareability and more engagement for fans of Canadian tennis. It’s extremely exciting for me personally as I’m also a fan of tennis!