Top class tournament
Changes needed for road tennis championships
Despite the success of this year’s National Sports Council (NSC) Inter-Parish Road Tennis Championships, the time has come for some major changes to be made to the annual competition.
Now in its fifth year, officials at the NSC, organizer Phillip “Foff” Garner, and Minister of Sport, Stephen Lashley, should be lauded for their efforts in putting on a top class event which came to an end over the weekend at the Springer Memorial School.
One of the biggest improvements to the tournament was that of the prize money.
According to Minister Lashley, the prize monies totaled over $48,000 –– a significant increase of over $30,000 from the previous year.
This made the tournament all the more competitive, which in turn helped to raise the overall standard of play.
Another area in which they should be applauded is for their efforts in making the competition a community-based one.
From Road View in St Peter, to Superlative in St George, Oistins in Christ Church and Bush Hall in St Michael, the preliminary rounds of the competition touched ten of the 11 parishes on the island.
The fact that they have continued to carry the finals live on CBC Channel 8 since its inception in 2010 –– reaching thousands of Barbadians and visitors alike who would have otherwise not seen a single ball served –– is also worth acknowledging.
However, despite its development into one of the most anticipated events on the road tennis calendar, several aspects of the competition need to be relooked.
For one, the current method of determining the winning teams needs a complete overhaul.
I have argued for the past two years, that determining the winning team based on points alone is not only unfair, but also not conducive to competitive play.
It was highlighted twice on Saturday night. Firstly when St George’s Ivor Lashley opted not to finish his match against Randy “Cat” Yearwood of Christ Church, with the game tied 1-1 after realizing it was mathematically impossible to win the ‘B’ class title.
Then in the “A” class finals, Christ Church’s Anthony “Ears” Mitchell had to be urged on by the referee and spectators to play the second set, after Antoine “Lil Man” Daniel had virtually assured St Michael of the title by winning the opening game.
Both the spectators at the venue and those watching on television would be expecting high quality and competitive matches, and rightly so.
”Robbing” them of the full slate of scheduled matches just because a player decides he cannot win or otherwise forcing him to play on when the outcome has already been decided, takes away from that competiveness.
I suggest that the organizers look at implementing a tie-break system if the teams are locked at 1-1, by introducing a third player to break the deadlock, rather than determining the winner by who scores the most points.
Another issue, which was clearly overlooked by the organizers was the fact that Kim Holder, the ladies’ champion, walked away with more money than the men’s “A” class duo of Mark “Venom” Griffith and Daniel.
Holder took home $6000, while the men’s winners walked away with $10,500 –– which when divided between the two players amounted to $5,250 per player.
At a meeting where the draws took place, Assistant Director at the NSC, Mona Alleyne had explained the reason for such was because they were trying to attract more women to the sport.
And while I agree wholeheartedly with her that offering attractive prize money is the way to go, I cannot see why they should receive more than the best players on the island.
Most of those who flock to the finals do so with the anticipation of seeing the best players –– “A” class –– in action.
No disrespect to the female players, but their quality of tennis is of an obviously lower standard than those males and therefore the pay grade should be adjusted to suit.
It must be mentioned that interim Chief Executive Officer of the NSC, Jerry Blenman did admit it was an oversight by members of the organizing committee and it would be looked into for future tournaments.
My final suggestion also is for the NSC too ensure those players who qualify to represent their respective parishes be outfitted in gear prior to the finals.
Having followed the competition through the preliminary rounds, I was shocked to see some of the players clothed in torn t-shirts, short jeans and cargo pants.
To make matters worse, CBC Channel 8 televised some of those poorly attired players, which somewhat lowered the quality of the tournament.
I know that we are currently in some challenging economic times, but the only way in which a product can be improved is by injecting capital.
In the end it may prove to be a bit more costly, and it may require some harder work behind the scenes as it relates to acquiring sponsorship, but it is the only way in which the competition can truly reach its maximum potential, and become of the premiere events on the sporting calendar.