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ON THE BALL: Building the junior ranks

JUSTIN MARVILLE, [email protected]

ON THE BALL: Building the junior ranks

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AHh, I understand now.

Believe me when I said I didn’t get what the fuss was all about before when the Barbados Tennis Association (BTA) stressed this dire need to outsource its junior programme.

Tennis couldn’t have a problem readily developing juniors now, could it?

After all, they have no less than ten gifted kids out there on scholarship as we speak, and a handful of them actually ply their trades at major Division I colleges stateside.

Heck, one of them, 19-year-old Matthew Foster-Estwick justifiably played his way on to the senior Davis Cup squad while the Fed Cup team is made up of mostly young collegians.

Junior tennis must be on the rise.

But the junior ITF tournament has a way of bringing you back down to earth.

In case you missed it, Barbados didn’t win one match in either of the Under-18 singles draws, and this speaks really to the absence of players in that age range more so than a lack of talent.

It also says something that we host this tournament every year and have not produced a title winner since a certain world no.112 last appeared at that level almost ten years ago.

There are clear age gaps in our junior ranks and that’s something which the new programme will seek to address with its outreach initiative.

Make no mistake, though, we have lots of talent, especially in the Under-14 girls with that gifted girl band of Hannah Chambers, Gabrielle Leslie, Alesha Alleyne and Chloe Weekes.

I guess the BTA just wants to avoid another age gap and ensure these types of players keep coming.

• Forget about all the talking.

It’s time for us to put our money where our mouths are.

We always say we want our sporting teams to perform well but we’re never willing to step forward with money to ensure that happens.

Now we have a very real chance to do that as Haydn Lewis has committed to returning to the tour full-time with an eye towards getting Barbados into the Davis Cup’s World Group.

So instead of simply taking out advertorials after people perform well, maybe some of those same private businesses can invest money in sponsoring him.

Maybe they can do likewise with Seanon Williams.

And maybe, just maybe, Government can hurry up and give that other Davis Cup veteran the elite athlete grants they promised him.