Former president of the Barbados Road Tennis Association Philip Garner has criticized that organization for not doing enough to assist the sport.
According to Garner, road tennis has improved at a rapid rate during the past decade but the body responsible for administering the sport is practically dead and has not organized a tournament for over a year.
“I am disappointed that the Barbados Road Tennis Association has not organized one single tournament during the last 18 months. This task is being done by several private promoters who are organizing tournaments throughout Barbados almost every month,” Garner told Barbados TODAY.
He stated it was these tournaments that were attracting massive crowds whenever they were held in the various communities across the island.
“The Road Tennis Association should tell the public why they have not hosted a single competition for over a year. Road tennis has never been more popular. This year I have organized or assisted with four tournaments, the Inter Parish Road Tennis Competition, the National Cultural Foundation Road Tennis Championships, the Speightstown Alive Road Tennis Championship, I am also the coordinator of the Silver Hill Championships which is one of the biggest tournaments on the island,” Garner said.
The veteran road tennis administrator lauded the private promoters for their role in taking road tennis from a ordinary sport played on the island’s roads to semi-professional status.
“These promoters have taken road tennis to a new level. All of their tournaments sponsored by businessmen and other people who are aware of the impact road tennis has at the community level. Because of the sponsorship, prize money are paid to the winners and top performers in these tournaments. In their bid to win the prize money, the players in these tournaments are extremely competitive and entertaining. The fans love this style of tennis, and they are attending these tournaments in large numbers,” Garner said.
He suggested that if the Barbados Road Tennis Association was no longer interested in organizing tournaments, its main focus should be on the creation of a development programme to attract young people to the sport and to lobby Government to build a home for the sport.
“Road tennis is in dire need of a place to call its own. Most of the major tournaments are played at the mercy of the elements. The Government built a National Stadium to accommodate track and field events on the island. Over $100 million dollars was spent to construct a new Kensington Oval in 2007 for the hosting of the Cricket World Cup. Road tennis is Barbados’ only indigenous sport, and the Government should help it find a home,” Garner stressed.
He suggested that tourism officials should use road tennis as a marketing tool to lure visitors to the island.
“The sport is played in several parts of the United States, it time that an international invitation tournament be held here. This can be done under the auspices of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
They can invite some of the top players from the United States to play in the tournament, and arrange with one of international sports networks to cover it. A tournament of this nature would be a fantastic promotional tool for the island and lift the international profile of the sport,” Garner said.
He stated that the sport was in good hands with a number of teenagers competing in the various tournaments. Garner singled out Darius Gaskin, Keon Murrell, Nicholas Ellis and Kyle King for special mention.