Rhianna Mc Kenzie
The tennis courts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus were overrun with primary school students on Sunday, as children from various tennis clubs around the country came out to participate in a friendly Red Ball/Orange Ball tournament. There were 13 teams in Red Ball and 24 teams in the Orange Ball. The event was hosted by Bosses Tennis Academy.
The other teams in the tournament were Anglez, Atlantic LNG, Tennis Patrons, Five Rivers TIA, Warrenville TIA, Arima Boys Government and Dave Patrick Clinic. The competition began with a round robin of three teams per group, with each team playing two matches. The top team from each group proceeded to quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
Bosses Tennis Academy group one won the Red Ball competition, with Atlantic group two, Arima Boys Government and Atlantic LNG group three placing second, third and fourth respectively. Arima Boys Government walked away with the Orange Ball first place title, Tennis Patrons group four in second place, Tennis Patrons group five in third place, and Atlantic LNG group three placing fourth.
Head coach at Bosses, Rhonda Mohammed, the mother of former national champion Carlista Mohammed, deemed the event a success, saying she was very pleased with the turnout and the professional manner in which the children executed what they had learned.
“It is an amazing feeling observing when (a student) finally gets it after trying so hard,” she said. Mohammed said her aim is to continue to build her students to meet their potential by providing them with the opportunities to gain as much exposure to the demands of the sport and competition as possible.
Mohammed, who has 20 years of experience as a coach, said she wanted to “mentally prepare (the players) to be comfortable playing in tournaments without feeling stressed out.”
“The demands of competition can be exhausting, but if the kids want to pursue tennis as a profession, they must prepare for it.” The tournament was also meant to be a social event. “For many of the kids, it was the first time they would have met and mingled with kids from schools from different parts of the country. The idea was to develop sportsmanship.” A requirement on Sunday was a handshake between opponents at the end of every set.
She also stressed how the sport impacts on life in the classroom. “It goes hand in hand. You can’t be indisciplined on the court and disciplined in the classroom. It is impossible.” Mohammed fervently encourages academics and places great emphasis on getting the job done on and off the court. “It can be balanced,” she said.
As for the future of the sport, Mohammed said it has great potential and there is always the one percent who are always driven and determined to make it despite the obstacles. However, the lack of support – financial and otherwise– continues to be a hindrance to the development of the sport in the country, And while she is adamant that her students focus on their academics, she admits the current education system is not suitable for potential athletes. “They are not getting enough time on court. To become the best, we need to put in the time.”