US Based coach Glendon Nicholas (l) presents new equipment to Tiger Tennis Director Sirsean Arlain.
Santa came a tad bit early to the tennis world this year. Not jolly old Saint Nick but Glendon Nicholas, a former local player based abroad. Nicholas made a presentation of twenty racquets, string, and grip to the Tiger Tennis Club, an organization committed to the development of junior tennis in St. Lucia. The donation was an attempt by the Castries native to contribute to a game that changed his life. He explained,“I started with a grassroots program in the late eighties and that program gave me my first insight in tennis. I played tennis throughout high school, I played tennis in college in the US and I also worked for a grassroots program in the US, which is the National Junior Tennis League. I was a Director of Tennis and one of the things I did in the United States, especially in New Jersey, was giving back, not to my people, but to my living community. So all through those years I remembered St Lucia, I never forgot St Lucia. I remembered who started me in tennis like Morris Grant and the DuBoulays, who sponsored the dollar a day grassroots program back in the early nineties and late eighties. And it was always a vision of mine, a little dream to bring that back to St Lucia.” Nicolas’ first love may be tennis, and while he wants progress in the sport, his vision for the island’s youth extends a little further. “I’m thinking not just tennis. I’m also thinking something a little bigger. Hopefully it materializes down the road in terms of sports. It’s just where I started, where I am right now, and where I want to go. And where I want to go is to help tennis in St Lucia. It’s not what it was when I played. Hopefully in the next few years with the help of Vilan (Edward) and Sirsean (Arlain) we can make it work.” He went on to elaborate, “I’m thinking about all the disciplines a lot of St Lucians and grassroot kids participate in. Netball, volleyball, everything. Hopefully I could start something. Tennis is my baby, tennis is what helped me get an education and helped me to get where I am in terms of supporting myself financially. This is where I started and hopefully I can branch out later on.” One of the criticisms of the sport in recent times has been the noticeable drop in the success of local players on the regional and international scene. Nicholas offered his theory on the decline. “It could be so many different things. One could be the access, which is the main thing for St Lucia. Back in my time the youth had access to the hotels and the hotels never shunned the youth away. I guess these things have changed. We had LaToc which had a good junior program and then after a few years we had the St Lucia Racquet Club and after a while they accepted the juniors in and we started playing tennis there. We had Halcyon , we also had a couple of others. Right now I don’t know if it’s the same. From what I’ve seen the hotels are totally different. We have the Gardens, we have the Raquet Club but the facility at Beausejour, if they are targeting grassroots like me, it only cost me a dollar. But times change. Maybe a dollar now might be ten dollars but I don’t know if that’s the case for kids. Things have changed a lot. The parents have more important things to think about than an individual sport like tennis where they could play basketball, one ball, football, one ball, they don’t need boots to play. But with tennis you need a racquet, you need a coach who understands the game. I think it has a lot do with the accessibility,” he concluded. Tiger Tennis Club Director, Arlain, believes the gesture by Nicholas will provide a much needed boost to upcoming programs. “I think it’s great that someone like Glendon would come back and really help support the grassroots programs. It’s gonna go a long way for us. We’re very thankful for it especially with ladies night and trying to start up adult programs. It’s really tough to get good racquets at any price. They usually start off in the US 200 dollar range so having him come in and donate that many puts us on a real good path and we’re really thankful once again.” Arlain added, “When people come in they don’t have to use some of the kiddie racquets or something that is old and broken down. They can actually use good, professional racquets and get their start in this wonderful game that we call tennis. It helps us even with kids that are pretty good and parents can’t afford racquets.” Before his departure, Nicholas shared his thoughts on what needed to be done to ensure the future of tennis in St Lucia is in good stead. “The kids don’t have the same vision as maybe the football players in St Lucia, the cricketers now because of 20/20. The standard of coaching could definitely get better and at the same time giving the kids support financially in terms of equipment. If the kids have equipment, besides the coaching, they will be able to come outside on their own and play. The kids in St Lucia now, they need that extra assistance. Maybe someone send them to a camp outside the country. One kid could make a difference on his way back just letting the others know about his experience and how hard the other kids work. Just more exposure.” The new equipment is a great start.