P2000, P500 juniors, FIP Gold … the Club du Mas in Perpignan is at the center of today. The opportunity to meet Alain Henry.
From 4 tennis courts to 10 paddle tennis courts
Paddle Magazine: Alain, can you tell us a little bit about the history of the club?
Alain Henry: This is the story of a private family club of 4 tennis courts created by my parents in the 80’s. It was the tennis years, the number of players was increasing and the structures were missing, a bit like today’s paddle.
Over the years, the club has grown and made important twists, as in 2005 with the creation of 5 squash courts. Then, in 2012, we built the first paddle tennis court, which was quickly joined by 2 more the following year. In 2015, three new courts replaced a tennis court to meet growing demand; then they were covered in 2020. And finally this year we have added 3 additional paddle on deck sacrificing the last 2 tennis courts.
Paddle Magazine: Does that mean you’re 100% paddle today?
Alain Henry: Yes, that’s right you can now become known as a tennis player! From 4 tennis courts we went to 10 paddle tennis courts, including 6 indoor courts. Tennis has been our DNA for 40 years because with Frédéric Tap we were mostly passionate. All these years we have developed the club through teaching. We had up to 350 young people at the tennis school on 4 courts.
Today the page is turning and the club is looking to the future, but without forgetting the path we have taken and the happiness that tennis has given us.
Paddle Magazine: During this transition from tennis to paddle tennis, were there any obstacles at the player level?
Alain Henry: Not really. With the remaining 2 tennis courts, there were no more competitions and almost no more team matches. This happened naturally and the few remaining tennis players switched to neighboring clubs. As for the tennis school, we have kept almost 80% of the young people, who today all play paddle …
Paddle Magazine: How and why did you get into paddle tennis?
Alain Henry: First for pleasure, then for passion. After trying it in Spain, we decided to put a track in the club for personal pleasure … But in the end, everyone wanted to play there! It was therefore necessary to propose other places quickly.
I personally made the 100% change in paddle teaching to develop the activity and meet the demand. Paddle tennis very quickly regained coexistence within the club.
In 2014 I co-wrote the first paddle book with Cédric Carité to offer a tool to teach and understand the game, because in these areas, in France, everything had to be built.
“Find the right balance between competition and leisure“
Paddle Magazine: Exactly how do you see the future of paddle in France and around the world?
Alain Henry: To make a comparison, I think that paddle is currently at the level of tennis in the 70s / 80s.
For 10 years we have been actors and also spectators of the evolution of paddle. In 2012 we were ten clubs and a hundred players in France. Paddle Magazine, it was you (Franck Binisti) and your camera, and today, look at the course! For us it was the same, a track, then 3, and now 10.
Paddle tennis is increasingly structured both at the level of the tennis federation and at the level of private and public actors.
For a sport to develop it needs visibility, equipment, quality education and youth. At each point the paddle is moving fast and even faster than expected.
But what should guide the election is the game itself and the pleasure it provides people.
The important thing is to know how to find the right balance between competition and leisure, to have a quality teacher training with a strong identity, a policy of development and structuring of young people, a real collaboration of trust between FFT and clubs. private. . We also need a consistent geographical policy of quality of facilities, not quantity as we have done in tennis. And finally a clear and real identification of the number of licensed and unlicensed professionals.
Like all sports, the top level and the elite must remain the showcase that should make you want to enter the store, but also and above all it is necessary that the interior of this store is quite attractive and makes wanting to come back. We need clubs with an adapted reception so that the player who comes three or four times a week is valued and that we can meet their expectations: find new members, create games, self-evaluate … Paddle, it is above all meetings, coexistence. , sharing, integrated into the life of the club, both on and off the pitch.
“Creating tracks is not that difficult, bringing them to life is a real job”
Paddle Magazine: What is the Mas club’s program for the coming years?
Alain Henry: The program has always been the same for 40 years: to encourage, present, train and teach this wonderful sport. Yes, we have expanded and modernized the club, and the small family tennis club has become a more imposing resort, but the spirit remains the same.
We are committed to maintaining this club spirit inherited from tennis and strong from our long experience, while at the same time relying on people who have grown up in the club to keep moving forward.
Creating leads isn’t that hard, bringing them to life is a real job. This beautiful tool should be put at the service of the paddle.
We have to work just as well with the FFT for events, like knowing how to encourage the ascent-descent of Friday evening; both coach the best French players (4 members of the club’s French teams) and give their first paddle lesson to a new insider.
As we have always done, we will try to keep innovating, offering, in any case, always being creators rather than followers.
Big events in Catalonia
Paddle Magazine: Now let’s talk about the international competitions you are holding …
Alain Henry: I would like to give moreyour important meetings for paddle fans.
First of all on 13/14/15 May at the Mas for the second P2000 of the season and at the same time the first P500 open national under-18 youth.
Then there will be 2 most important meetings in Catalonia.
Since last year, we have launched with a team of fans, of which you are part, the DNA PADEL association which aims to organize and promote paddle tennis through events, such as international competitions under the under the auspices of the International Paddle Federation (IFJ) and the FFT.
The first took place last August in Canet-en-Roussillon on the beach and was a great success.
This year we are renewing the adventure in one of the most beautiful places in Perpignan, for a FIP GOLD from 22 to 26 June. In August it will be the FIP RISE again in Canet from the 24th to the 28th of August.
It is an extraordinary human adventure with a team of passionate volunteers where everyone’s skills stand out. We will try to move forward step by step to maybe, who knows, organize an even bigger event to promote and develop paddle.
Franck Binisti discovered paddle tennis at the Club des Pyramides in 2009 in the Paris region. Since then, paddle tennis has been a part of his life. You often see him touring France covering major French paddle tennis events.