By RENALDO DORSETT
IN October, the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association launched its version of the ITF’s “Play and Stay” programme in the capital. Now, the organisation will formally expand to the family islands.
The BLTA will team up with Friends of Tennis for Harbour Island, Bahamas to host a highly anticipated weekend of tennis events, July 19-21, highlighted by the aforementioned programme.
Play and Stay co-ordinator Bradley Bain said the goal is to “promote the game of tennis and expose more youngsters to the game of tennis.”
A Play and Stay workshop set for July 19 will be conducted for parents, coaches and volunteers to introduce them to the format of the programme, creating a new group of teachers for beginners.
Wesley Rolle seeks to develop local coaches in Harbour Island to assume control of the “Play and Stay” programme.
Rolle, a former president of the BLTA, has been making major strides in the programme by tutoring beginners in the game for the past year.
June 20 will feature a Tennis Fun Day fundraiser to assist the Harbour Island Tennis Programme in a myriad of ways, including facilities and equipment upgrades.
Bahamian Davis Cup player Marvin Rolle and touring player and collegiate player Dirnage Saunders will make an appearance with an exhibition at the Pink Sands tennis courts at 11am.
The “Play and Stay” workshop will continue for the remainder of the weekend conducted by Bain.
Scores of young tennis enthusiasts turned Rawson Square into a temporary court in October for the programme’s launch.
The programme represents a global shift in the rules governing youth tennis and is expected to have a direct impact on the development of the game locally, bringing a wider cross section of newcomers to the sport.
Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association president Derron Donaldson also saw to it that the new facilities constructed to house the programme will be named in honour of Bahamian tennis great Mark Knowles.
The new initiative features smaller rackets, smaller courts, and slower balls tailored to the skills of beginning tennis players.
It is now mandatory for competition for players aged 10-and-under to be played with slower red, orange and green balls on the appropriate sized courts, while the traditional yellow ball will no longer be permitted for 10-and-under competition.
According to Donaldson, the programme will strengthen the feeder system of the Bahamas’ junior development programme.
“This will be the ticket to strengthening and developing an already strong junior development programme. In this format, tennis is at its easiest to learn, it’s inexpensive, can be played on a wide variety of surfaces so we can target an even greater number of kids and get them into the sport as fast as possible,” he said.
“The goal is to bring them into the sport, have them experience relative success rather quickly and make the game as interesting and attractive as possible to them at a young age. If we can bring about 50 kids to each free outing of mini tennis we host, there may be about 10-15 natural talents in that crowd that will stick with the game, hence the ‘Play and Stay’ theme coined by the ITF.”
The ITF’s Tennis Play and Stay campaign centers around the slogan “serve, rally and score” and the recommendation that starter players play the game outright from their first lesson.
The campaign is supported by the top ITF nations and professional players, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin, as well as the equipment manufacturers.
The campaign aims to retain more starter children and adults in the sport by improving the way in which coaches worldwide introduce tennis to starter players, ensuring their first experience is both positive and enjoyable.
“This is our first major event and of course the goal is for massive support and attention as the first step, and eventually getting the mini tennis programme in schools.
“The BLTA hosted a ‘Play and Stay’ course for 25 teachers last November as the first step toward the inter-school competitions,” Donaldson said.