The Pope talks tennis at the Vatican

May 14, 2015

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — During the qualifying tennis tournament for the Italian Open in Rome in early May, the Italian Tennis Federation (FIT) hosted a special session at the Vatican with Pope Francis, who used the encounter to speak about sports and tennis as an “educational experience.” The audience with the Pope was the opening session for the 2nd Annual International Tennis Coaches Symposium.

Nearly 7,000 tennis coaches, their families and others involved in the sport were in attendance in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on May 8, including coaching legend Nick Bollettieri; former touring pro, longtime tennis director and current PTR President Roy Barth; past PTR President Jorge Andrew; U.S. mental toughness coach Lorenzo Beltram; well-known Italian coach Pablo Lozano; Tennis Industry Association (TIA) Executive Director Jolyn de Boer; and TIA Cardio Tennis Manager Michele Krause.

“There are three paths—three fundamental pillars—for children and young people: Education (in the school and in the family), sport and work,” Pope Francis told the coaches. “When we have all three—school, sport and work—then there exists the conditions to develop a full and authentic life, avoiding those dependencies that poison and ruin existence.

“You athletes have a mission to fulfill: To be, for those who admire you, good role models,” the Pope said. “And also you managers, coaches and others working in sport: You are called to give a good witness to human values, practitioners of a sporting profession that is always fair and transparent.

“I would … urge each of you to get into the game, not only in sport—as you already do and with excellent results—but in life, the pursuit of the good, the true good, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm,” he added.

Following the Pope’s address and blessing, the Symposium moved to the historic Foro Italico, site of the Italian Open. Hosted by the FIT, the gathering of more than 3,000 tennis professionals and coaches is the world’s largest tennis symposium. Cardio Tennis, a program managed by the TIA, was presented and demonstrated on the Grand Stand Court by de Boer and Krause.

The on-court Cardio Tennis participants wore Polar Bluetooth heart-rate transmitters and the data for each participant was displayed on the court’s large Jumbotron so the audience could see the players’ heart rates live and follow their progress as they were put through the Cardio Tennis session, burning calories and getting their heart rate into their training zones.

Cardio Tennis already is offered in more than 30 countries, including as a key pillar for tennis participation in Australia and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., more than 1.7 million people participate in Cardio Tennis.