BY Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
It certainly won’t be the typical way we see the sport of Tennis. An ‘outside the lines’ approach will be the basis the BVI Tennis Association’s Tennis Revolution project which will be done in conjunction with the BVI Olympic Committee, where hitting the ball with a frying pan or using Police restricted area tape for a net, literally adapts the sport to any environment.
Consultant Mike Barrel, BVI Tennis Association president Carol Mitchell and public relations officer Dionne Liverpool, shared the plan that will come on stream in September, during a press conference last week.
“We’re not just looking at tennis from the traditional sense of having a court, racket and a net to play,” Barrel said. “We’re looking at playing where you are—on a street, in a park or playground, a limited space area—but playing with anything which you can hit the ball with or whatever can be used for a net, whether it’s tape, string or piece of wood. The objective is playing.”
Barrel who has work in 87 different countries around the world with the sport, says in driving around Tortola, he noticed there are lots of playgrounds and learnt that there are only 10 tennis courts on the island, two of which are public courts.
“As you go around the world, everybody has different challenges,” Barrel noted, pointing out that Norway has a limited amount of courts and their approach is quite different to Sweden, while in the USA, a 102 court tennis complex is being constructed. “This is our pilot and these are the challenges we see here, which are not in other places—limited amount of courts, limited amount of players, not a lot of teachers or coaches—so we are starting right at the base. Our expectation is not to find a Grand Slam champion. But, can we triple, quadruple the number of people playing tennis; the number of people getting the right instruction; the right kind of competition, parent education—things that have never happened before.”
At the school level, the program is interwoven in all aspects of the curriculum. Barrel explained that they are not going in to talk about tennis, which is integrated into math, geography and other subjects.
“For example, you’re a Phys Ed. Teacher, what would help you do your job better? What would make tennis more attractive to teach? What if we give you these tools, buying into the curriculum and make it easy for you to teach,” he asked. “If that happens, probably we’ll come back every year, refresh and do something else.”
Barrel who met Mitchell three years ago at a conference in Mexico, said they had discussed the sport in the territory and looked at a program before, but it wasn’t a fit for the BVI.
Mitchell, just shy of a year at the helm of the association, has been working diligently in getting the sport at the grass roots level. She said her aim to bring more awareness and have more kids and adults getting into the sport and growing the sport overall in the territory.
“The plan that I had all along, even when I attended that conference in Mexico two years ago, is to have more kids and everyone playing tennis,” she said. “We hope to bring it into reality with the help of Mike Barrel, who’s the expert on the Tennis Revolution idea. We hope we’ll have it all over the territory with everyone playing tennis.”