A smashing time in road tennisPHILIP GARNER: a master in the game of road tennis. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
By Lisa King | Mon, January 28, 2013 - 11:23 AM
He boasts that no one in Barbados has been involved in road tennis more years than him.
For the past 45 years Philip “Foff” Garner has been playing and teaching road tennis, organizing tournaments and also skinning balls and making rackets. He says he knows almost everything there is to know about road tennis.
Garner, who is one of the biggest advocates of the sport that originated in Barbados around 1930, said that as Barbadians we should be proud and boast the fact that a sport now being played all over the world originated on the island.
Over the years he has introduced road tennis, which is a version of lawn tennis, in most of the Caribbean islands; he even introduced it in China and in July last year, to Venezuela.
The sport was also taken to San Antonio, Texas, United States, a few years ago and has grown by leaps and bounds, albeit undergoing some adaptations and being renamed RoTenGo.
Garner lamented that Barbadians, as originators of the sport, should by now have developed a special type and brand of ball and racket for when the sport is introduced to other countries. He said that officials of the United States Road Tennis Association are in talks with Taiwan and China to produce rackets and balls, which they hope to bring to the Barbadian market as well.
“They are using me, as the expert, to tell them about the weight of the racket, how much the diameter should be, the thickness of the ball.
“We still have to skin the lawn tennis balls and they are looking at producing a ball that is already skinned. That is something we in Barbados should be doing, exporting these things to the world; so that part of it may get out of hand,” Garner said.
He called for a trademark ball. Barbados needed to produce a ball with the road tennis stamp identifying it as a road tennis ball instead of using the skinned lawn tennis ball. He added that the days of plywood rackets were long gone.
“The racket that is used here is made of plywood and anybody can take a piece of plywood and make a racket.
“We need to make some of a special type of material to go on the commercial market because if we continue to make the plywood rackets, we could run into problems later in terms of introducing it to other countries. [You] may get the first set in there but then there is no one requesting them anymore,” Garner said.
On the other hand, he was glad that more people in Barbados were showing interest.
“We play [at the Deighton “Pa Roach” Road Tennis facility in Bush Hall] from evening right through sometimes to midnight and see a lot of new faces coming out wanting to get involved.”
Road tennis courts are being drawn up in almost every village across the island and people are playing.
Speaking about the recently concluded third Inter-Parish Road Tennis Championships, Garner said they were able to get teams from every parish to compete in all five categories, which augured well for the development of the sport.
However, Garner – who learnt to play road tennis as a child – said that more children needed to be brought into the game.
“The majority of top road tennis players are over 40 years of age and even though some people can play up to 65 or over, you never know at what age people will retire. So you need to have younger people coming in to fill those spaces.”
Garner also said that even though the Government supplied lighting on hard courts and that led to tournaments and road tennis becoming the second biggest spectator sport in the island, it was time for a proper road tennis facility.
“Even though road tennis is an outdoor sport, you need to have it covered so the elements cannot affect the game – not a facility that is totally enclosed, but something with toilet facilities and two or three courts that are protected from the rain,” Garner said.
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