International Women’s Tennis Tournament Kozerki Open2019 is part of the LOTOS PZT Polish Tour series, which includes 10 professional tournaments from around the country. The flagship project of the Polish Tennis Association involved many partners – headed by Grupa LOTOS, which became the titular sponsor of the cycle – and thanks to this support, further steps towards the development of tennis in Poland are taken.
The first conclusions of the program, current tasks and goals for the future of the Polish Tennis Association, as well as about the development of tennis in Poland were discussed with Mirosław Skrzypczyński, the president of PZT, by Jarosław Lewandowski, director of the Kozerki Open tournament.
Kozerki Open: What prompted you to take the post of the President of the Polish Tennis Association?
The situation at that time in Polish tennis and the Polish Tennis Union and conversations with my friends and people from the tennis world, with whom we have known each other for many years, made me decide to help this sport in which I am really my whole life.
Kozerki Open: How do you evaluate the activities of the Polish Tennis Association in the last few years from the perspective of the Board?
At the beginning, a little digression – first of all I think that the structures of sport associations should look a bit different, and the boards should be less numerous. And back to the question – what we did in two years could give many years of the term of our predecessors. New programs were created, we acquired new sponsors, new financial resources. A lot of work has been done but it is only a grain of what awaits us in the future. In order to develop and move forward all the time, some other activities are needed, a good plan is needed, a good perspective, and above all, good performers are needed all the time.
Kozerki Open: Another question refers somewhat to what you said a moment ago. What are the main goals of the Association for the next few years?
Acquiring ever increasing financial resources, developing those programs that are already functioning, but also doing new things that are important for the proper functioning of the Polish Tennis Union. It’s also organizing big, flagship tournaments, tournaments that will be significant events for Polish tennis.
Create central training centers. And not just one such center. I think that there should be more of them, because we have a large country and not every parent will decide, for example, to give a child from Silesia to Warsaw or from Warsaw to Wrocław. So creating three or even five training centers is the most logical. And there are such possibilities, I know that they are willing to implement this type of investment. A plan must be made, funds must be obtained and those who want to do so – cooperate. Kozerki can become such a center.
Kozerki Open: Let’s hope it will happen soon. Moving on to the next question – signing a contract with Grupa LOTOS was certainly a milestone, some say that thanks to this Polish tennis got up from his knees. Are there any prospects for extending this type of cooperation with other companies?
What we are currently doing with Grupa LOTOS is very important to us, but we must remember that nothing is eternal. The contract is, however, with an option to extend, but in order for this extension to take place, you have to earn it. In Polish tennis, people have to learn to work corporately, and this is lacking. In order for LOTOS to cooperate with us, it must pay for this company, in the field of marketing, not financially. The same applies to the acquisition of new partners. They expect us to pay back the media first and expect that their brand will be visible thanks to the invested money. So you have to learn to work a little differently. This work is not the same as working on the court. And that should be understood. After finishing work at the court, I learned how to manage a company such as the Polish Tennis Association for a few years. And today I can say that I know and can do it only I need also my co-workers – contractors.
Kozerki Open: In order for Polish tennis to be good, it has to be promoted and popularized so that the largest number of young players will not only try their hand at Tennis 10, but also later stay at the competitive tennis platform, 12-16 years old. How does PZT plan to support those who decide to pursue a career?
For this purpose, among other things, the LOTOS PZT Team program was created. I also hope that more programs will be created, such a nucleus is Tennis 12. We want the Tennis 14 program to be created – all partners are needed for this. And the partners will appear in Polish tennis, when the Polish Tennis Association will be credible when our activity – not only the Union, but the entire Polish tennis – will be credible. So in fact, everyone has to earn on these partners what they do for Polish tennis, and I can only be an executioner, a contractor of their will and talk on behalf of the entire tennis community with partners.
Kozerki Open: The broadly understood support of players must be rather decentralized. There is a very important role of clubs in this. Are there any club support programs being prepared that can translate into the popularization of tennis among children and young people?
Yes, of course we think about such programs. We know that if there are strong clubs, there will also be strong tennis. However, please take into account that you can not do everything in a very short time. For many years, no big things have happened, we can see how long the search for a strategic partner has been going since Ryszard Krauze and Prokom. So all the time is needed. I want to act quickly, but as I mentioned earlier, I need people who will support me in these activities. Those who will not be passive, who will not watch me, who will have their ideas, who will take their initiatives. Then it will be possible. I assume that the prospect of strengthening clubs is 3-4 years. For now, we do what we do and I think that the effects are already visible to everyone. There is no such money yet that everyone will be satisfied (everyone will never be happy), but there is a plan, there is some perspective only the helpers are needed.
Kozerki Open: Lotos PZT Polish Tour is a new project that started this year. It includes 10 professional tournaments, both for women and men. We already have the first tournaments behind us. Please tell me how you evaluate the operation of this program in the context of tournaments that have already taken place.
This program was my dream. I said at the very beginning that I would like to do something like that. Once, while sitting over coffee, I talked about this idea with Krzysztof Bobala, to whom I have great confidence, because with Krzysiek we have been working together since 1991, when we were doing the first professional tournaments in Poland. He is a reliable and trustworthy partner for me and I know that I can do a lot of great things with him, as well as with those organizers with whom we are currently working. It is 10 organizers, not accidentally chosen, to whom we have great confidence and we know that they want very well for Polish tennis. Each of the centers in which the tournaments will be held under this program has been, as I mentioned earlier, not chosen by chance, selected because on this basis, on the basis of these people and these centers we can make really big tennis.
Kozerki Open: Lotos PZT Polish Tour is a series of tournaments for adults, and we probably need more tournaments for young people – Tennis Europe or ITF Juniors. Are there any prospects that the number of such tournaments in Poland will be greater?
It is not entirely up to us, because it is also dependent on the limits granted by the ITF or Tennis Europe. There will definitely be a new series of tournaments in Poland, including yesterday I had a conversation in this matter. Children aged 12 and older should compete with each other, they do not necessarily have to play all the time abroad. If the limits increase, we will definitely want to use them to the maximum. We will also help the organizers to make these tournaments, which are already, constituted because, as you know, the organization of this type of competition requires large amounts of both organizational and financial expenses. We try and we will keep trying these tournaments to help, help the organizers, but also if it is possible to do new ones, we will certainly support them, especially financially, because that’s what the organizers and clubs expect from us.
Kozerki Open: Tennis is an individual and very international sport. Do you think to establish exceptionally close cooperation with one of the federations from another country.
Yes of course. Only I am not able to do everything myself and that is why I need dynamic collaborators who will support these activities. It is understandable to me that cooperation with other countries can only be useful. An example of this is the cooperation of the Silesian Tennis Association with the Czech Tennis Association, where, for example, matches are held in Silesia – Moravia. This type of activities should be expanded, but it should also work with our other neighbors, for example from Germany, because there is a well developed tennis. Let’s not look for cooperation with countries that are very far away, because the exchange then is expensive. We have great tennis in the neighborhood: Czech, German, also behind the eastern border – you do not have to look far. It is enough, therefore, to limit ourselves to our nearest neighbors.
Kozerki Open: Continuing this thread – is there any federation that you set for yourself?
For me, Germany has always been such a model. They are close, you can watch them. I really like order, discipline, planning. From this I am known and perhaps sometimes disliked … (laughs). The German federation is a relationship that can be modeled on what they do, how they run players, how they have organized tournaments and competitions.
Kozerki Open: And the last question: Your biggest tennis dream?
Let people from the Polish tennis community stop complaining.
Kozerki Open: Thank you very much for the interview and I wish you the consequences and successes in implementing all the plans.
fot. Materials provided by the Polish Tennis Association