Slow lane pain
He may be Barbados’ best road tennis player, but Julian “Michael Jackson” White still doesn’t believe that enough is being done to develop the sport.
And he has warned that unless some serious steps are taken to advance the indigenous sport, countries such as China and the United States could soon be producing the top road tennis players.
In an interview with MIDWEEKSPORT yesterday, White, 45, called for the revitalization of the dormant Barbados Road Tennis Association (BRTA) and more assistance from the National Sports Council (NSC).
“The first thing that needs to happen is for the BRTA to become functional again, because they are the local body responsible for road tennis,” he said.
“It hasn’t been functional in a while, and I think that is one of the main reasons why road tennis hasn’t developed as it should have. The NSC also needs to play a bigger role. They are one of the main bodies behind road tennis and they really need to push the sport more.”
Fresh from capturing the SJ Health and Bakery Punches in Bunches Road Tennis Competition Sunday, White, who has travelled to several countries to promote the sport, noted that China and the US, especially, were very serious about getting involved.
“With their table tennis background, it won’t take long before China overtakes us.
“And the thing about these guys is when they get involved in sports, it is at the highest level. That means the implementation of a development programme, teaching it to children at a very young age, road tennis schools, coaches, managers . . . the full works. Right now in Barbados, we are just playing road tennis for the love of it, but that is not good enough.”
President of the Professional Road Tennis Association (PRTA), Dale Clarke, agreed that more should be done to enhance the sport.
He said programmes should already have been implemented at both primary and secondary school levels.
“Road tennis should be a staple in primary and secondary schools. The same way that there are cricket and football competitions, there should also be road tennis competitions,” he emphasized. “It shouldn’t even be an issue with money, because it is the cheapest sport to get involved in.
“I don’t want to sound vain, but I think that after the PRTA took road tennis to the next level, the other organizations just didn’t follow suit.
“There is still this stigma attached to road tennis that it is a poor man’s sport, and we need to move away from that.”
The PRTA promoted the sport in other Caribbean countries, the US and parts of Europe. Road tennis also received a major boost nearly two years ago when World No. 3 lawn tennis player Andy Murray took on Sylvan “Lama” Barnett in an exhibition match.
But chairman of the BRTA’s interim committee, Philip “Foff” Garner, disagreed with both White and Clarke, maintaining that big strides had been made over the past few years.
He said the advent of the National Inter-Parish Road Tennis Championships and the recently established Silver Hill Competition had been major boosts for the sport.
“In the last ten years or so, we have definitely seen a growth in road tennis.
“And although it may be true that the BRTA wasn’t fully functional for a period of time, we are now in the process of having it re-established,” he revealed.
“It has come to a point where we will have to start fresh again. We are currently at the stage where we are doing a reassessment of the rules and regulations of the game, and we will be making some changes.”
Although not going into details, Garner said that he was in negotiations for an initiative which would give the sport a timely and much needed boost.