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by Walter Edey
In 2016, the International Olympic Committee approved five new sports. The additions, which included Skateboarding, added eighteen events and four hundred and seventy-four athletes to the Tokyo Summer Games.
Skateboarding began as “sidewalk surfing” in California in the 1950s. Surfers wanted something to do when the tides and waves were low and flat.
These innovators made skateboards from wooden boxes and roller skate wheels; and surfed on sidewalks. Seventy – two years later, Sidewalk Surfing is part of the Olympics, as Skateboarding – surfing on skate parks, not waves. (a skate park is a set of indoor or outdoor plywood or concrete ramps that mimic the curves and slopes of waves.
Barbados’ road tennis is an older sport than skateboarding and with a similar informal beginning. In the 1930s, a group of Barbadians wanted to play lawn tennis, but it was an expensive sport. Like the surfers, they made rackets and nets with wood; sought worn lawn tennis balls; and turned roads into tennis courts.
Organisation of the game and expectations are changing. In a 2020 media story, Dale Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Tennis Association shared a global vision of road tennis as both a sport and industry. Among other things, he said: “The progress has been rapid and satisfying because not only in Barbados has the level risen but the support has expanded beyond our shores.
People in the Philippines play road tennis, there are countries in Europe, Central America where people are playing.”
Speaking to the future changes he said: “We have to be creative and try to form new alliances and get new sponsors on board.”
So are the new alliances to which Clarke spoke sufficient? What about a brand name? Can it survive as a competitive community sport, alone? Or should it become an integrated sport for the rich and poor, and the black, white and others? Skate boarding’s blueprint is public knowledge. It reads like history and storybook; and a business or entertainment report. Listen to parts of the story:
1. Larry Stevenson invented Skate Boarding. Rodney Mullen added new manoeuvers, styles, and designs. Tony Hawk, born May 12, 1968 is one of the early professional skaters, the first skater to land a 900.
2. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, skateboarders were: punk rockers; had a lingo and music; according to some, lived a rebellious life; performed tricks on stages; and used the skateboard as transportation.
This combination of competition, culture, and subculture transformed the informal activity into the industry.
That recreational art form, reportedly in 2009 had a market value estimated as $4.8 billion, and 11.08 million active skateboarders in the world.”
Barbados now has its California road Tennis story.
PZ Road Tennis Store offers 8 Racket sizes for Kids-Adults and Road Tennis Apparel.
The female Barbadian road tennis believer has formed an alliance with educators. Road tennis is part of a physical education fitness curriculum; and a STEM-based project. Road tennis is teaching students mathematics and science.
Without question, the potential of road tennis as an activity exists. But will Barbadians hold fast to their creation, and, continue to develop it on their own as a competition rather” than borrow ideas and learn from the development of other informal sports.
The 2032 Olympics awaits road tennis. A roadshow of road tennis is overdue: Tuk-Band rhythms, stilt dancers and drummers for half-time shows. Road tennis in Barbados needs promotions: festivals, tournaments between the teams from the parks and the villages.
Students should be required to research and write the history of the sport for school credit. Lest Barbados forgets, Trinidad failed to convert steel pan into an industry.
It remained just a carnival competitive treasure for too long. Other countries now make and sell electric and amplified steel pans. Barbados: Hard ears yuh won’t hear, own way yuh gine feel.” Meanwhile, the 2032 Olympics await Banjo Tennis or Zipp Tennis.
Walter Edey is a retired math and science educator.