by Michron Robinson
The level of talent coming into the National Sports Council’s swimming and tennis camps at The Wildey Gymnasium, St. Michael, is reasonably high and coaches hope to have their campers continue in their respective areas even after the holidays.
Coach of the swimming discipline, Russell Walton, said that the camp, which is running fairly smoothly, has approximately 150 children ranging in ages from eight to 16.
“We have sorted them into groups of ability where we have two coaches per group with about seven groups and 14 coaches and each group has about 20 children. The campers are doing well; they go under different routines each day from the coaches in terms of swimming and water safety so everything is going quite well,” Walton said.
However, he stated that one thing which proved to be a challenge was the high numbers of who wanted to get into the camp each year.
“It is a sport for some reason that everyone wants to get into really bad … and the enthusiasm level of the campers is very high, higher than you could think of. The children love swimming and the water,” he added.
Opposite to the Aquatic Centre, tennis coach Kevin Yarde, with 100 campers under his supervision, said that tennis which is one of the first sports to be filled had a few issues.
He outlined the challenges as maintenance of and lack of equipment, as well as small issues with discipline among the campers. He however added that it was all manageable.
“Some of the younger children have decent hand and eye coordination skill sets which go a long way in becoming a skillful tennis player. So the level is pretty even, but hopefully we could get the young eight- and nine-year-olds to continue playing after camp — that is the goal, to get the young ones to keep the interest and to continue playing throughout the next school year,” Yarde said.
He added that one thing he would like his players to take away with them was to have that love and appreciation for the game.
“It is not as easy as it looks and a lot of people get to realise that when they get on the court that it is not what the professionals make it out to be but very difficult [especially] at a high level,” Yarde stated.
The tennis coach opined that money needed to be invested in the Barbadian athletes in general because people tend to wait until an athlete reached his or her pinnacle then to put finances behind the athlete. “We have to do it the other way around so that they get the exposure. At the junior level at an early age they have to try to push on to the next level or else we will continue being in the same boat that we are in with an Obadele Thompson one year and then a Ryan Brathwaite the next ten years and then we turn around to try to back the campers,” he added.
Tennis Counsellor, 16-year-old Ronaldo Brandford, who is mentoring the youngsters for the first time, described it as stressful having to manage so many different children. However, he said that they were having fun in the process which was most important.