Any money invested in road tennis by the Government of Barbados is well spent, says Philip Garner, who has been involved in the promotion and development of the game for several decades.
“I visited Jamaica last year as part of a group that was introducing road tennis to the island. I showed an official from the Ministry of Sports who had never seen or heard of road tennis before, a short video of the game. He was amazed after watching the video to learn that the game was invented in Barbados. The official told me cricket, football and lawn tennis were invented in England; basketball was created in the United States. Barbados should be proud to be the only Caribbean country to have invented a sport. He stated we should do everything to ensure that road tennis never dies by promoting it to all corners on earth”, Garner told Barbados TODAY.
Garner, a former president of the Barbados Road Tennis Association believes that the government should inject more money into the sport.
“ The people who play road tennis are drawn from the lower level of the society, its rapid development in the last decade is due to the inexpensiveness of the sport. The spectators are from among the masses, therefore, whenever the various tournaments are held a large number of fans show up at the venue,” Garner said.
He stated that the various road tennis tournaments around the island were attracting more spectators than cricket at the club level.
Garner feels that in the future, road tennis tournaments on the island will attract as many spectators as football.
According to Garner, fans attending road tennis tournaments can relax and enjoy the game without any fear because violent incidents are not associated with the sport.
He recalled several road tennis players were reluctant to participate in the Silver Hill Road Tennis Tournament when it was started in 2010 because of the violence associated with the area.
“The road tennis tournament in Silver Hill is now the biggest competition on the island in term of entries and spectators. Over twenty vendors plied their trade at the last tournament, which is an indication that road tennis is also creating economic activity within the community,” Garner noted.
The road tennis administrator gave several examples of young men who he knew had turned their lives around after they started playing the sport.
“I will always remember a couple of young lads from Belfield, St Michael who were out of hand. I took them under my wings after organising a tournament in the area, even though some people told me I was wasting my time. Today, one of those lads is among the top five players on the island. I have seen boys from all across the island who were heading down the wrong path change their outlook on life after they began playing road tennis. Sports give young people an avenue to channel their energy in a positive area. It gives me great pleasure when I see our homegrown sport having a positive impact on the lives of our young people,” Garner said.
He issued a call for the government or the private sector to build an indoor facility where road tennis competitions could be held.
“A few years ago, the final of the Inter Parish Road Tennis Championship was held at the Gymnasium before a massive crowd. I believe the construction of an indoor facility would be a worthwhile investment for the government or the private sector. It will also assist with the development of the sport, “ Garner said.
He stated that in a quiet way road tennis was playing a fundamental role in the development of young people.
Garner expressed his elation at the number of young people who were playing the sport. The veteran organiser stated that road tennis had grown at a remarkable rate with several tournaments being held annually.
He stated the road tennis year began with the Inter-Parish competition, followed by the Silver Hill tournament. At present, the Touch of Class Women’s Tennis Tournament is taking place at the Deighton “ Pa” Roach Tennis Facility in Bush Hall. Last weekend, the inaugural Lance Bynoe Masters Open Road Tennis Tournament was launched. Forty eight players (sixteen women and thirty two men) will compete in that tournament. A total $31,000 will be at stake.
This tournament is being held in memory of Bynoe a popular Barbadian sportsman who along with noted novelist George Lamming founded road tennis in the 1940s.
Garner disclosed he was at present putting the final touches on the National Cultural Foundation’s Road Tennis Championship. The preliminaries of this tournament will take place at King George V Memorial Park and the final will be held on the Spring Garden Highway.
“There are a wide variety of road tennis tournaments taking place in the country each year. This is very good for the sport, it allows the players to earn money and it gives the fans the opportunity to come out and support the sport,” Garner said.
He showered praise on Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley for the particular interest he had shown in the sport’s development.