Sam Aliassime speaks to a group of students at his academy.

Photo : Paul Rivard

Sam Aliassime was first a father and then a coach to his son Félix.

In either case, considering what an exceptional human and professional tennis player the 22-year-old has become, it’s safe to say Sam’s done an excellent job raising his boy.

This third chapter in our series on Sam Aliassime delves into his outlook on life as a parent and coach, his relationship with his son and their colossal project to create their own tennis academy along the lines of those founded by Rafael Nadal and Patrick Mouratoglou.

But first, it’s important to understand how Sam’s methodical mind brought him to where he is.

Photo : Paul Rivard

Calm and organized, Sam is the perfect example of a self-made man, player and coach.

As a boy in his native Togo, he was crazy about soccer until he was told he didn’t have the chops for the elite. As he explained in the first instalment in this series dedicated to him, that’s when he turned to tennis.

He’d flip through all the French tennis magazines he could get his hands on and then share his love of the sport with his friends.

That eventually led to a departure, a new country and sense of belonging in Québec, and a tennis academy that bears his name and has earned a solid and enviable reputation here and abroad.

Photo : Paul Rivard


Roam the courts and corridors of Club Avantage in Québec, and the foundations on which the academy is built come clearly into view.

Like its founder and leader, the structure is simple and effective. Method—the Aliassime method—is everything. The guiding principles of the approach are carved into the very columns of the temple.  

Photo : Paul Rivard

First and foremost is respect. Then come all the other fundamentals that make up a truly whole person in sport and in life. Fun, fight, discipline, focus, commitment, passion, ambition, positivity…Traits that materialize one after the other in virtually endless succession.

Read also: Sam Aliassime’s Front-Row Seat

Like a vital mantra, they’re instinctively etched in the minds of the young players as they make their way to the courts. 

Photo : Paul Rivard

That said, the academy is evolving, and Sam likens its operations to those of a tennis player: “I tell my coaches they have to make progress every day, and the sky’s the limit.” He travels extensively visiting other tennis program and then adapts their success stories to his own academy.

Read also: Felix Excelling Off the Court

He’s appointed an academy coordinator, a recreational program director, a U12 program director and a special advisor in his friend Jacques Hérisset, who hired Sam some 15 years ago and then handed him the keys to the club when he retired.

Photo : Jean-François Desgagnés/Journal de Québec


On the wall of one of the corridors are the photos of the academy coaches, who all hail from different backgrounds. Their diversity is striking.

Photo : Paul Rivard
Photo : Académie Aliassime

They’re from Québec, France, Serbia, Mexico, Italy and Chile. Make a lighthearted parallel with the United Nations and Sam will consent in all seriousness.

“I’ve met people from different cultures on my travels, and every culture has its strengths and weaknesses. I felt like I had the opportunity to give the young people at the academy a glimpse into those cultures and their ways of thinking.”

 Sam with Académie Aliassime coaches Doroteja Erić and Luca Cerin. Photo : Paul Rivard

The coaches each have a role to play, and bringing all their cultures and expertise together is what makes things stick. “What I love—and you’ll see it in our meeting—is that it’s family. It’s commitment, too. Our coaches are always ready, seven days a week,” Sam says.

Their lingua franca is English for two reasons. “Because all my coaches speak it, even if they can express themselves in French, and especially because it facilitates the players’ eventual transition to a US university. That’s the goal a lot of kids and their parents are focused on.”

Read also: The EB Tennis Academy is Creating a Tennis Community in Quebec

Tennis isn’t the only sport at the academy. The teenagers spend more time on the courts, while the younger kids take part in a range activities. “It’s all based on age. We have several programs for players 6 to 14 years old. With the 8-year-olds, we put a lot of emphasis on coordination and hand and footwork, and we do that through tennis and other sports like soccer, basketball and even skating. That way, they don’t get bored playing the same sport all the time,” Sam explains.

Photo : Paul Rivard

While Sam Aliassime believes children need to move and have fun, he’s very firm when it comes to discipline and, above all, respect.

There are consequences when players don’t keep their area of the facilities tidy. There won’t be a punishment, but there will be a few extra drills.

With backing from Félix and his financial partners, the Académie Aliassime remains one of the least expensive tennis programs in Québec. In keeping with this spirit of cooperation and support for development, Sam confirms that many of Félix’s major sponsorship contracts include funding for tennis programs for young and disadvantaged players. “Whenever his agent negotiates, he sets aside a dedicated amount. The partners are proud to participate. That’s especially true of Renault and BNP Paribas.”

Photo : Paul Rivard

With his young players, he applies the same method he did with his own son. “When Félix was seven years old, people would watch him and were quite astonished by his style and maturity. Respect first, of course. But then intensity and acceleration. Don’t be afraid. Never be afraid!”

Read also: The Road to the NBO Toronto – Onwards Towards Wimbledon

Sam remembers seeing the Williams sisters hit on the courts at the PEPS centre at Université Laval. “They were powerful hitters, and their father would say his daughters were going to be World No.1. It’s that way of thinking—having no fear and the conviction to go for it and give one hundred percent. If things don’t work out later on, well, that’s OK. You did what you had to do. That’s my basic policy. No regrets, no should’ves. You do what you have to do, even in school. You go all in or you don’t go in at all.”

Photo : Académie Aliassime


It’s been a few years since Sam Aliassime entrusted his son to other coaches. He realized early on that handing over the reins was the right choice.

“It was a simple and easy decision. You know, I still communicate with him and his coach Fred Fontang at the end of every tournament. I’m there and I share my perspective when we plan the season at the start of the year and when we take stock at the end of it. I’ve known my son’s tennis DNA since the very beginning. I sometimes remind him of that, so he doesn’t forget!” Sam says.  

Read also: The Five Biggest Cinderella Runs at the National Bank Open in Toronto

He draws a parallel with academics.

“If you’re an elementary school teacher who wants to be a university professor, you won’t be able to help the students. You’re just not at the level. My strength is that I’m a great teacher—for young kids!” he says with a smile. “I know everything about developing 10- and 12-year-olds. Just look at all the provincial championships the academy’s won. There’s another expert for the 14 to 16 age group. It’s a continuity, and we each pursue our predecessor’s work. That’s why it was easy to pass the torch. Why did we get Toni Nadal on board? Because we want to win a Slam. We want someone who’s done it. In the end, we all have our part to play.”

Photo : Antoine Couvercelle/Reuters/Panoramic

According to Sam, the perfect parent is someone who puts their trust in you. At the same time, the coach has a responsibility to understand and communicate with their young players’ parents.

“In my opinion, children can’t succeed in tennis if their parents aren’t involved. That’s very clear. Twenty-five percent happens on the court. The rest is off the court, and you can’t neglect that 75 percent. It has to be a family project. I tell parents I can’t ensure their children’s development if they don’t get involved themselves because I need them.”

Read also: Tennis Canada and National Bank to award $50,000 in funding as part of the Game. Set. Equity. Community Tennis Grants program

And now that his son is a multimillionaire who spent over a year in the Top 10 and brought home ATP titles and the Davis Cup, what are their conversations like? Are they still father to son or have things changed?

“No, nothing’s changed. We still talk to each other like we did when he was nine or ten years old,” says Sam with a chuckle.

Photo : Paul Rivard

“I understood a long time ago that if you talk to kids like babies, they’ll act like babies. You have to be gentle with them, but you can still have a normal discussion. Félix and I have talked to each other in the same way since he was about eight years old.”


Could the academy become a family affair in which Félix invests his time, efforts and money?

It’s definitely more than a pipe dream.

Read also: Familly First with the Auger-Aliassime Clan

“Absolutely. And it’s going to be here,” Sam says pointing to the ground beneath his feet. Here in Québec, and not Florida or the south of France. Félix was very clear on that.

Photo : Instagram/@felixaliassime

“It must be in Canada. Ideally in Québec or elsewhere in the province. The city doesn’t matter. Do we want it to be in a regular club or in facilities dedicated to tennis development where there are no court reservations and a bell ringing on the hour?”

But when?

Read also: The Dawn of a New Era on the WTA Tour

“Tomorrow or later. I don’t know yet,” he continues. “But the sooner the better. I’m still in good shape, and he’s young and can get involved. I can see him coming back home to compete in the National Bank Open and training for it at his academy. And it would be the Auger-Aliassime Academy because Félix wants to keep his mother’s name. She’s always played a very important role, and we split things according our strengths. I oversaw the children’s sports, and she was very active in their education,” he says.

Photo : Instagram/@felixaliassime

Even if he opens another higher-level academy in Montréal or elsewhere in Québec, Sam has no intention of closing up shop in Québec. He knows there’s a need in and around the city and he doesn’t want to deprive young talents of the resource.

And that’s also what the Aliassime method is all about.

Photo : Paul Rivard