By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Tennis consultant Mike Burrell said things have been really positive, following the final phase of the BVI Tennis Association 2016 project concluded with a Jr. Tennis Development Tournament on Saturday, at the Long Look Public Courts.
Leading up to the weekend tournament, a play day was held on Thursday and Burrell said he was quite surprised by the turnout.
“To get 50 something kids on the court in one session, to be honest, I was a bit surprised and we were like ‘wow, wow’” Burrell said. “Tennis is not seen to be a big thing in BVI. It’s a minority sport and gradually building. We focus on getting the kids to understand a lot of what the game is about and Carol (Mitchell BVIA President) has done a really, really good job in terms of getting kids out there and getting them exposed and signing up for more things and to be more involved in tennis clubs and we hope every tennis provider is going to benefit from that work that’s being done.”
The tournament targeted U10, U12 and U14 players.
“We started the project back in May and this is my third visit and we’ve done some work with half of the schools in the BVI during that time, so that has been really good,” he said. “This is the culmination and the first development tournament that we’ve been able to put together and it has been really positive from the parents. Kids are still learning to compete and we have to help them a bit with a few things, but, you can see a lot of smiles on their faces; kids are hanging out together and getting to know each other, so it’s a really positive thing for BVI Tennis.”
Regarding the three phases of the tournament Burrell who has conducted similar programs all over the world, said that in the 10 and Under, there was a balance and kids who had never played before. He said five-six played really well and he was impressed by some of the things that they could do, but, there’s still lots of work to do.
“There’s good promise and clearly, a lot of people have actually spent quite a lot of time on the tennis court practicing, in order to get ready for the tournament.” he noted.
He said he saw much of the same with the 12 and Under as in the 10 and Under, but in some ways the 10 and Under development has been early, some of them have shown more promise than the 12 and Under. He added that they are stronger in the younger ages because the program is a little bit more mature.
“We have a boys entry and a girls entry and enough entries to have two boys boxes and a good solid box for the girls,” he stated. “There are places out there in the USA for example, with all the money they’ve got, they struggle to get all those kids to come together and play. In the 14 and Under, we only have boys so that’s a challenge for us as we move through, to try and keep some of the girls in the program, but, that’s fairly typical of tennis. Tennis doesn’t keep as many girls in the program as boys.”
In assessing the program since May, Burrell said it has been ‘up and down.’ He said there have been some challenges and they have had to learn about the way people see things in the BVI around the perception of the sport and the way they have had to work with the different providers which he described as ‘interesting one for everybody’ as everyone has been in their little bubble and not coming together and doing things.
“What’s really good about this for example, is that we have people coming from the Tortola Sports Club, people coming down from Virgin Gorda and we have people from in East End,” he pointed out. “That’s been something I wanted right from the beginning and its taken a bit longer to get there, but, we got there in the end.”