Payne’s vision for tennis
“Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling, I bear in the tide . . . Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise.” Maya Angelou.
Road tennis is on the go: spreading like uprooted nut grass; rising like the surfing waves at Bathsheba, and attracting new players and unlikely spectators beyond the shores of Barbados, the game’s birthplace.
From humble beginnings, the game’s journey towards wider global recognition has mirrored a poem of rejection and attraction; an expression of tears and scars. Finally, success is breaking through and a U.S.-based Barbadian is looking to give the indigenous game a major push on the international stage.
At age nine, Lyndonne Payne joined her parents (Stanley and Rosemary Payne) in Houston, Texas where she later completed her education before taking up residence in New York. Two years ago, she returned to Barbados and unexpectedly fell in love with road tennis.
“I was reintroduced to road tennis on the block in Foul Bay, St Philip – on the streets where my father played the game when I was a child, “ said Payne, the Director of International Road Tennis Society and Ink Media Productions in California.
“Often, I couldn’t wait ‘till morning to get up and to go out to play the game. My interest grew as the guys on the block freely shared their knowledge of the game with me. On one hot day, after I saw a mature man beat everyone, I asked him -Anderson Sealy – known as St. George – to teach me to play the game competitively,” she added.
Interestingly, Payne’s growing obsession with the game was fueled by her training in film. “Wherever road tennis was played, I went and I filmed it. After a year, I saw the game through a new lens. I had enough footage to tell a story – to make the introduction for a documentary – “21 To Get Home,” an excited Payne recalled.
However, Payne’s enthusiasm and desire to help the development of the sport ran into resistance from authorities and others seeking to control and lead the sport on the island. Instead of serving as a turn-off, this rejection only inspired Payne and led her to return to the US where, in conjunction with a business partner from Africa (Tsungi Mosley), she established a road tennis platform to introduce, teach, and promote the sport.
“I still believe that the sky is the limit. The mission of the International Road Tennis Society (ITRS) is to the develop road tennis across countries, through education, entertainment, health and wellness, and competition.” explained Payne.
“For example, we offer private lessons and school demonstrations. We link with manufacturers and artists to develop and produce gear. Our brand, called the PZ (“PeaZey”) of Road Tennis, is unique. We sell kits, clothing, rackets, balls, and collapsible nets. We invite everyone to visit our website – roadtennis.org.”
IRTS is evolving and building capacity. Payne collaborates with Gregory Hinds – founder of Pride of Bim – New York. To showcase the game, the pair pitched tent – so to speak – in a cul-de-sac outside the Carnarsie entrance of the venue of the recent Barbados Festival Day in Brooklyn.
“I felt welcomed, supported and inspired. I met former road tennis players and made new friends – some not Barbadians. I am excited about the growth of road tennis and I look forward (to it making the) transition to the international market. For the record, last year we went to Brazil and we were well received.” noted Payne.
“For me, road tennis has become a “Stroke of Passion”. We want to build an international community of road tennis players, of spectators, of media platforms, and of sponsors from all walks of life for the purpose of the sport’s growth – through intense training for competition, fitness, and wellness.”
She continued: “At the same time, we must deepen the love for, and pay tribute to a game rooted deep in the (village) culture of Barbados. I am confident that one day the tennis elite will crave for and play the game.”
Payne’s “Stroke of Passion” appears to be on a firm footing and the sounds of its freedom footsteps look poised to get louder.
Hopefully, many will hear them, follow and play.
Walter Edey can be contacted at email@example.com