By Morissa Lindsay
In an effort to further develop road tennis and take it to an elite level, the National Sports Council (NSC) remains part of the driving force as they hired two new coaches – Julian ‘Michael Jackson’ White and Winslow Birkett.
Acting Assistant Director of the NSC, Adrian Donovan made the announcement today during the launch of the NSC and Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) Road Tennis Coaching Course held at the BOA – that White 55-years-old and Birkett age 61 will join fellow longstanding road tennis coach Peter Moore as part of the NSC coaching staff.
White and Birkett are among the 42 participants for the two-week course which started this evening and they both said it is something that they had given a lot of thought on and decided to coach at the national level because their main desire is to see road tennis in Barbados reach its maximum potential.
“It was something I give some thought to years ago, I was approached four or five years ago and asked until the Government was changed which was a little setback but I am here now and I will try to put my best foot forward and try to help whoever I am coaching to push this sport of road tennis in Barbados,” White said.
Meanwhile Birkett stated, “I have been doing a lot of work, voluntary work with road tennis for a number of years going into Primary Schools especially and coaching ladies. That is one of my primary interests that caused me to get into road tennis. And as Mr Donovan said earlier this evening pertaining to the ladies tennis, we want to see more ladies playing and to have a large number of ladies playing road tennis could also help the sport.”
Both White and Birkett are no strangers to road tennis in Barbados, especially the former who has been revered for his magnificent performances over the years in several high profile competitions and the latter who is famous for coaching one of the best players on island, Antoine ‘Lil Man’ Daniel.
During his remarks, Donovan said the course which will take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, is one with a difference because the aspiring coaches will receive two certificates, one from the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees and the other from the NSC.
“You have been reading all the time in the press that we are bombarded with requests from all over the world wanting road tennis to be played in respective countries, especially in the African continent. The honourable Minister Charles Griffith in his wisdom gave us a mandate that he needs a couple of courses this year and to start them as soon as possible. So, we have kept our promise before the end of January, this one will be starting and completed, and two more should come by the end of the year.
“Road tennis has become, in a short space of time, one of the biggest income earners for sports men and women in Barbados. So, I want you all to be very grateful and when you are called upon to give back, please give back. The intention is that when you all are finished here, some of you will go on to work at our annual summer camp, some of you will be involved in the Ministry’s ongoing community coaching programme.
“From time to time we intend to take some of you into the communities that are not recognised for road tennis. We have some parishes in Barbados like St. Joseph, St. Andrew and St. Thomas where the road tennis is not vibrant as yet. We have marked the courts but we need somebody to come in the communities and help coach and part of that is getting some of you to go with us,” Donovan said.
Out of the 42 applicants, 20 are from the Barbados Community College which Donovan said is part of their syllabus. He also explained that five of those applications were open for female participants because the numbers he noted are not as it should be when it comes to female participation.
“Recently you would have seen the President of the Road Tennis Association (Frederick Blunt) say he only had seven young girls playing tennis compared to 73 boys at the school level. So we decided in order to push the female road tennis, we would put five spaces just for females,” Donovan added.
Interestingly, those four of the five females are the highest ranked players in Barbados, Sheldene Waldron, Maudlyn Blunt, Abigail Haynes and Rachel Smith while the other is national table tennis coach Julia Lewis.
BOA General Manager, Glyne Clarke was in attendance and said, “It is our hope to utilise this in conjunction with a road tennis theory and practical course that would complete the programme. I want to encourage everyone as this is a part of your own development and I am happy to see that you have finally started to put your minds together in terms of developing a formal programme for road tennis.
“I think it is long overdue, I believe there have been some attempts to the practical part of it but I am happy that we have actually put together a formal programme and I look forward to sometime in the near future
where we can actually have a course with different levels like grassroots, intermediate and elite.”