Tennis coaches plead for more access of Racquet Centre

FILE PHOTO: A tennis player plays a shot at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua. -
FILE PHOTO: A tennis player plays a shot at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua. -

TENNIS coaches wanting to use the National Racquet Sport Centre in Tacarigua for training and recreation are complaining they are not able to book the facility using the online portal.

Owner and coach of Bosses Tennis Academy Rhonda Solomon Mohammed told Newsday she has used the online booking system over 13 times, got no confirmation, and has only been able to use the courts twice.

"The fourth and fifth time I booked, I was able to use it, although I didn't get confirmation," Mohammed said. "After the sixth time, I went back there and I was told by the facility attendant that I didn't have authority to use the court and was asked to get off the compound."

The centre has 12 courts – four indoor and eight outdoor.

President of the Tennis Association of TT (TATT) Hayden Mitchell said three of the outdoor courts used to be under the Ministry of Sports, but were transferred to Sport Company of TT when the new facility was built.

He said the fees for use of the new courts are still being worked out.

“Those can’t be rented out yet because the Parliament is still determining the fees for use.”

Mohammed said when the centre was reopened for sporting use after being used as a step-down facility during the covid19 pandemic, she was informed by TATT that they were not allowed to book the courts for anyone else but national players and for tournaments.

"They gave me no reason, and the last communication I got from the Sport Company personnel, is that the tennis association is allowed to book for national players and clubs. When I informed the association they said they had no idea about clubs, they know about national players and tournaments.

“They said they are still going through the process, after four years, of setting a price for usage...Under the ministry, we used to pay $17.25 an hour during the day and $20 at night. I don't know why they can't continue with that while they work out a fee."

Chairman of Sport TT Douglas Camacho told Newsday the booking process is simple and he is not aware of any problems with it.

"The process is that you go online and make your bookings. If someone has booked the time you want, then you won’t get it…Once it’s available the Sports Company is happy for you to use the facility. If you aren't getting through, all you need to do is call the Sports TT office and they will be able to say if the slot is booked or not. There is no embargo on anyone or any organisation."

But Mohammed said she has called and spoken to more than one booking agent who told her the centre is not open for recreational use.

"They said they are still in the process of putting a fee on the bookings, and I have to go through the tennis association."

Mitchell, however, said TATT has “zero to do with that. That is a Sport TT matter.”

Tennis coach Dale Boyce told Newsday although he has his personal tennis court, he too has witnessed the challenges people face with accessing the courts.

"I also did some work at the centre for people who live in the area, prior to the closure for covid. Some of the children I work with, they are able to book because they are at national level, but regular players have not been able to book for recreational use."

Another tennis coach who asked not to be identified said, "Before covid we had access, after we had no access. In the eastern part of TT, there are very few facilities available for general public.

"I use a school and a public courts...The non-use of the (Tacarigua) courts is a big minus on the eastern side of the country."

Mohammed said she has lost income because of the challenges with the online booking system.

"At the moment I am working out of a club court on St Vincent Street, in Tunapuna. If you know that area, it is not a safe area....I had 25 clients when I went up there, I have three at the moment...I used to work out of the UWI courts, but at the moment I cannot afford what they want me to pay.”

She said coaches are willing to work to develop the young people but the lack of facilities is disheartening.

"If ten coaches produce five good players a year, we have lost 50 players. We produce national players, international players, we produce recreational players, we produce players that get scholarships and go abroad to play tennis, we work with beginners. But now we have nowhere, and where we have is dangerous.”

Mitchell believes the booking system needs some work, as people should be able to get feedback when they book.

“The system should be able to let you know which slots are available and which are already booked.”

Another challenge, he said, is that nationwide, there are not enough public courts and so many people wanting to play.


"Tennis coaches plead for more access of Racquet Centre"

More in this section