From August 19 to 25, 2024, the center of the PACA League and the Country Club Padel will welcome for the second time in a row the French Youth Championships. A grandiose event that Christian Collange, Chairman of the Committee Padel from the region, is looking forward to it. Interview with an enthusiast who is optimistic for the future.

Christian, the rate of young competitors remains low (around 6% according to the latest figures), although slight growth has been observed over the past year. How do you view this development?

The priority at the level of the leagues and the federation is to develop the padel for young people. We cannot consider a sport worthy of the name if there is none. It was necessary to put materials in place, such as teachers or schools, so that they could have access to the activity all year round at suitable prices. There has to be competition for them. Today, it's happening, and it's accelerated a lot since last year. We will see the result in the next 2-3 years.

Melissa Martin children's entertainment 2 Cupra Rennes

We created the famous TFP, the diplomas of padel, so that teachers can be trained. You have to understand that it is not as simple as for adults. A kid, if he doesn't have suitable tournaments, we won't be able to see if he's in the right course or not. The interest is there, it is above all the accessibility which is complicated. We hold a lot of youth gatherings in my region, in PACA, but behind them, there was no school for padel. We must therefore show them and give them a taste for this sport.

In France, several promises (Timéo Fonteny, Yoan Boronad, Louise Bahurel) are emerging. Do you think they can compete with the best in the future?

Today, we are far from Spain and Argentina, which are the two main countries ahead. We are a little behind because they are perhaps 15 years ahead. Afterwards, compared to European countries, we are at the same level. If we are talking about very high levels, we are putting in place what is necessary so that these young people can be well supervised, well supported and structure their training.

Benjamin Tison and Pablo Ayma - Premier Padel

The number of national youth tournaments (TNJ) is increasing, like the Bandol Master final (which will take place from July 20 to 21, 2024, editor’s note) or the French Championship. There is also international competition: the European Championship, the World Championship, friendly meetings with the Spaniards, some FIP tournaments,… Now, the young people are also advised by Pablo Ayma and Benjamin Tison (at the FFT, photo). The “Team” project Padel France Jeunes” is starting to take shape with Alexia Dechaume, so I think we are on the right track.

What needs to be done to make up for the gap with countries like Spain or Argentina?

Above all, culture is missing. padel, the past, what has been implemented in Spain for 20 years. What we do not have is precisely this knowledge of padel. In France, the federation has retained the padel in his fold in 2014, and the French coach is not yet up to what he is doing elsewhere for the moment. We cannot make up for such a delay in 3-4 years.

Wilson palate padel FFT balls

Intelligently, the FFT uses foreign coaches who speed up the process. Our best young people are starting to alternate training with Spanish colleagues and with French colleagues. They are international. Afterwards, compared to the others, we are not behind since we are still in the 3-4 best in Europe and in the 4-5 best in the world.

Let's return to the French Youth Championships. After 2023, you will once again host the competition, what are your feelings?

It is a proof of recognition. I was asked to take care of the padel in PACA, and it has been several years since my commission and I set up regional and departmental gatherings and youth circuits. Last year, I think it was a great success despite the heatwave. It was extremely hot and the department almost made us cancel the competition, but we adapted.

PACA League

We have a wonderful site in PACA League and a partnership with the Country Club Padel, who plays the game with us. This is the first time that such a national event has been entrusted to a league (and not to private clubs). There, it's really the celebration of padel within a public and pioneering league with young people. It is therefore a source of pride that the federation has reiterated its confidence so that we can organize a new edition.

Tell us more about the program, the expected new features...

The first three days (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) will be devoted to the French U14 Interleague Championships, the formula will be the same as last year. At the same time, we will have the French Championships in pairs with a new category: the U16 boys and girls, in addition to the U18 which already exist. This will allow us to have more matches, more young people, and to cover the whole range of ages. At the organizational level, we are going to confirm what we did well last year while improving certain points.

League Paca girl U14 Interligues France young people 2023

We are going to improve the hotel service to be less far away because we had too many hotels, so we were a little spread out in terms of transport. There will be surprises for the entertainment, we will do something that holds up. There will be more people on site with the U16s. We want it to be the real celebration of padel for young people, because we are there for them at the base. It will be a place of exchange, of sharing, but also of competition, of course!

Who are your favorites for this competition?

Until now, the Interleague has always been won by the PACA region or Occitanie. But we realized that many leagues had caught up, because they launched some really interesting processes. I am thinking of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Île-de-France, Normandy, Burgundy,… There is no longer a monopoly, it will be open.

Boronad Fonteny 2024

Of course, Timéo Fonteny and Yoan Boronad (Photo) should be the favorites in their category. There are a lot of young people who have an interesting level, we see that there are a lot of leagues that are represented. For example, during the last national gathering which took place in Paris, four weeks ago, I believe there were 6 or 7 leagues represented. A team capable of creating a surprise? To tell the truth, there are many who have done a lot of work. I would perhaps say Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes or Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Finally, what actions do you plan to take to continue the development of young players?

On the federation side, the team is really in place with Benjamin Tison, who was an important recruit. He came to support the competition at youth level in France. We go to leagues all year round, we hold events to find the best young people before inviting them to national gatherings. From there, the best are followed, helped financially and put in place to be in the French team. Now, we will have to evolve for these young people. They need to play internationally...

Young arms raised Toulouse padel interleague club 2022

At home, our best young people come from schools padel existing PACA, because there, we polish them. We created a very close relationship with the coaches, teachers and clubs. But to move forward, and I keep saying it, we need to have a mass of young people. Today, we need to be able to enter schools or colleges to take them early. Those who play the training game will be helped from the start of the school year. We must also have objectives on the padel feminine, which is even more complicated. Girls will quickly realize that this is a super cool subject. I am therefore confident for the future because we are moving in the right direction, whether at the level of leagues, committees, clubs, etc. We must play the game of the future!

It was through his father that Auxence discovered the padel, one evening in June 2018. Today, he passionately follows the international circuit and teases the pala in his training club, Toulouse Padel Club. You can also find it on La Feuille de Match and, two specialist media on Toulouse Football Club.