On Target
August 15, 2014

Keep that tennis fence

Fences are erected to act as separations and lines of demarcation.

Whilst these are accepted and plausible objectives, in reality, fences keep people apart; hence they become not so neigbourly, but individualistic.{{more}}

Recently some concern was raised in some quarters about the condition of part of the wired perimeter fence at the National Tennis Centre and the fact that it is obviously in need of repair.

But the repair to the fence is miniscule in comparison with the restorative work that the sport must attend to with a degree of urgency.

So, whilst there is repair work that must be carried out in a literal sense, figuratively, the brick wall fence that has been reinforced within the minds of the major players in tennis here is sturdier than ever.

This has resulted in what has been emerging lately, a verbal fencing match between members of the executive of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tennis Association and the Grassroot Tennis Club.

The swords have been drawn and the venue — the platform of technology — with seats being readily taken up at ringside.

Sitting on the fence, this column would immediately point out to all concerned that they are going nowhere fast, as there are many debilitating issues which tennis faces head on.

First serve would be ace, as the facilities at the National Tennis Centre at Villa, apart from the broken fences, are lacking upkeep. This has been one of the biggest spears that has punctured the operations of successive executives of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tennis Association.

The state of the centre has prevented the SVGTA from hosting the Under-14 category of the annual ITF tournament, which was played during this week.

The records show that when the Republic of China on Taiwan built the property, it was deeded to the SVGTA and not the state. Hence, the responsibility for the upkeep is solely the SVGTA’s. Over the years, the cost has become burdensome, thus the current predicament.

Even the implementation of user fees, which run counter to the national mandate of making the sport accessible to all, have not dented the daily cost of operation of the facility.

Additionally, sponsorship billboards were supposed to be another form of revenue for the SVGTA; however, with little activity at the venue, it is obvious that businesses would not buy into the idea.

Efforts to have the National Sports Council take over the National Tennis Centre vanished immediately with the thought, as that institution cannot paddle for itself without the oars of the National Lotteries Authority.

Also, corporate entities are not that willing to pump their monies into tennis, thus compounding the debts incurred by successive administrations.

In effect, the dance cannot pay for the lights, as we say in local vernacular, although ironically, a dance has been advertised for the venue this Sunday.

That set aside, there has been a general drop in the standard and interest in the sport. There has not been any sustained senior tournament within the last six years, and the junior tournaments for the last four years have been lodged in the hands of the Grassroot Tennis Club.

At the recent junior tournament put on by the national association last month, there was a lone entrant in the Girls Under-10 and two in the Girls Under-18. Such is the state of the sport at this juncture.

Then, these are barriers which should preoccupy the energies of those who profess to love the sport, rather than their indulgence in acrimony.

Finding avenues to make tennis self-sufficient should be the number one seed.

The Boyeas, Grant Connell, Kebajah King, Samantha Goodluck, James Bascombe, Onike Spann and others directly involved in ensuring that tennis thrives, must put away the past hurts and man up to the situation and assume full responsibility for taking the sport out of the near mire it is in. Can Connell bring that same fervour he outpours at his fruitful Grassroot set-up to bear on the national set-up? Or does he have in his bosom a hidden agenda?

The off-court players must pave the surface for those to follow; they must begin again to trust one another and bring down those fences of ego and vendetta, which have been allowed to spawn into near hatred.

Seemingly endemic, persons just get infected once they come in contact with national administration.

Tennis has come full circle, as gone are the days that only a certain class and those of light skin pigmentation could have ventured out on a tennis court.

Do we want to take it back down that road of segregation, but one of a different kind?