How Level5 Strategy helped Tennis Canada develop world-class athletes

Young Canadians are leading the charge in tennis these days.

Felix Auger Aliasimme, Leylah Fernandez, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Eugenie Bouchard and Bianca Andreescu, to name a few, have been rising through the global tennis rankings with astonishing speed.

Most of these elite players have passed through Tennis Canada’s high-performance development program, which was created with the goal of developing world-class athletes.

New York Times’s sports writer David Waldstein was full of praise for Canada’s high performance tennis program which “is achieving its goal of producing elite players,” adding “Not bad for a country with about a tenth of the population of the United States.”

But, like most great outcomes, it’s not about chance – it’s about starting with a bold, well-informed strategy and a steadfast commitment to deliver it.

David Kincaid and I had the unique pleasure of working with President and CEO Michael Downey and Tennis Canada’s executive team in 2009 when many of today’s Canadian tennis stars could barely see over the net.

Formed in 1890, Tennis Canada in 2009 was suffering from a low profile, limited reach, weak brand equity and lack of exciting and sustainable news about their professionals. Level5 Strategy was brought in to lead the creation of an ambitious, fan-centric strategic plan and brand strategy that would transform the organization and elevate the game among Canadians.

We conducted a thorough examination to find out what really mattered to fans, casual tennis players and community clubs, including a frank assessment of what was holding the organization back from achieving its goals. Then, together with Tennis Canada, we put in place the organization’s new purpose, vision and strategic imperatives that were truly transformational.

From a relatively unknown, and too often overlooked organization, Tennis Canada transformed itself into one of the premier national sports organizations in the country. The executive team embraced a single-minded purpose to become a passionate advocate for the game of tennis and redefine its role in making a positive impact on individuals, families and communities.

Under Michael Downey’s leadership, the team developed a highly focused, strategic plan that would see the creation of world-class tennis training centres and tournaments, as well as valuable tools and programs that grew the game at the grass-roots level. This plan has also led to the creation of a cutting edge, best in class youth development program.

Tennis Canada decided to embark on a journey from pretty good to truly great and the plan has yielded remarkable results for years to come. It took courageous leadership, a bold customer-centric plan and commitment from the entire organization to make it happen.

What’s your plan for greatness?

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