Coaching key to survival
STRESSING that this country is not producing enough juniors, Julian “Michael Jackson” White, the most successful player in the history of road tennis, is worried about the future of the sport.
White, who has won more than 30 titles and has been the most dominant force in the game over the last decade, told MIDWEEK SPORT the Government run National Sports Council has to place more emphasis on road tennis.
“I am not satisfied with the numbers coming through. I would love to see more junior talent coming through. As the top road tennis nation, to have five or six juniors coming to the fore is not nearly good enough.
“In time to come, one of the major international countries like China, Australia or Brazil, once they are willing to take up road tennis, will put a coaching clinic in place and leave us behind. It is just a matter of time.
“I don’t think that Barbados has a bright future in road tennis. It is sad to say but it is a fact. When you look at the National Sports Council and note that there is just one road tennis coach there to coach the entire island, I don’t think that is the right move for road tennis. We need more coaches,” he said.
White might have been concerned that the game is still dominated by the established names. At the recent lucrative Monarchs Of The Courts tournament, all of the top guns, Antonio Daniel, White himself and the experienced Anthony “Ears” Mitchell, are all way over 40.
The flamboyant Daniel who rebounded from a long layoff to take the title and the first prize cheque is 45, while White, winner of the Silver Hill tournament and the beaten finalist in the Monarchs Of The Courts competition, is 46.
White make it clear he was not advertising for a coaching job.
“I am not on the lookout for a coaching job. I may be a good player, but that does not mean it makes me a good coach. But I think that to take the game to the next level, we need some serious coaching.
“The game has got to get in the schools in a big way. The schools have got to be more involved in road tennis and participating. If you look at the last tournament, there were six juniors and it has been the same six for all of the recent competitions.
“It is only a matter of time before one of the big countries take up the sport and it is an easy sport to learn.
“If the Chinese and the Australians with their facilities and know-how take up the sport and start training their players three to four hours a day, it would only be a matter of time maybe just four to eight years before they surpass us.”
White said he had plenty of respect for the super fit Mark “Venom” Griffith, who may be the island’s only full-time player.
“Venom is the cream of the crop right now despite I having the number one ranking or Antonio Daniel coming back and bringing back out the crowds. I accept Venom for what he does. He has been in the game for about five years and is already one of the best.
“Venom sees road tennis as his future and career. He just plays road tennis, he does nothing else. He takes the sport very serious, as a business. He will be one of the top players for a long time,” White said.
White said that the depth in road tennis was much greater in the 1990s.
“In Deane’s Village in the early 1990s, in order to play the game you had to learn to win because there were about 15 to 20 players on the sideline that you couldn’t beat. Road tennis players today have it easy. We had it rough.
“In my early days, there was Antonio Daniel, Curtis ‘Socks’ Bailey, Edward ‘Dabo’ Carrington, Charles Griffith, Tiny Jordan, Jeffrey Burrah Best, Sylvan ‘Llama’ Barnett, Bing Crosby Layne and the list goes on. I can call 21 road tennis players you couldn’t beat on evenings. Now you can count three or four.
“That tells me that road tennis is still at a high level but the depth is not nearly the same.”