There were bouts of sunburn, cases of dehydration, and hours of rigorous training. But in the end it all paid off in the form of 23 newly certified level one tennis coaches. On Monday evening, in a ceremony held at Beausejour’s National Tennis Center, participants in the International Tennis Federation’s level one coaches course and Play and Stay received certificates in recognition of their accomplishment. The training took place over thirteen days, with a battery of intense activities totaling over seventy-four hours.
Tennis coordinator, coach, and arguably one of the most decorated ambassador’s of the sport, Stephen Marcelle, lauded the organizations that made the event feasible. “Without the ITF, IOC (International Olympic Committee), and other partners it is almost impossible to do these things. I would also like to thank the St Lucia Tennis Association for their support of this event because obviously that was their brainchild from inception. Of course, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes that persons don’t see so I want to thank the SLTA.”
Marcelle was also impressed with the dedication displayed by the coaching trainees, who saw the course through its entirety despite the sweltering heat.
Ricardo Bowe, manager of the National Tennis Center, echoed the sentiments expressed by Marcelle, but took it a step further by challenging coaches to translate their knowledge into something tangible.
“Anything that you do in life, you need to have something to show. You need to have a result. So it’s not just about getting qualifications. We have lots of highly qualified people all over St Lucia. The most important thing is producing and getting results.”
Bowe lamented the still limited number of tennis clubs on the island, but was optimistic that continued coaching education would reverse the trend.
“If you do a little research right now we only have about four clubs in St Lucia. We have the National Tennis Center, the program in the Gardens, we have the Holmes Tennis Academy, and the Southern Amateur Tennis Club, so I am hoping that we can move from four hopefully within the next ten years we can get up to about 20 tennis clubs if possible,” he said.
Bowe went on to say: “We don’t have any clubs in Soufriere. We don’t have any clubs in Choiseul. We don’t have a club in Anse La Raye. We don’t have one in Dennery. We don’t have one in the Valley, so there are lots of areas where we have to develop. None of this can happen if we don’t have the coaches to spearhead all of these initiatives,” he concluded.
The significance of the coaching fraternity became the unofficial theme of the evening, with St Lucia Tennis Association President Stephen McNamara stating that they were “the lifeblood of the sport, particularly where development is concerned.”
In her feature address, recently appointed president of the St Lucia Olympic Committee, Fortuna Belrose also focused on the coaches and the opportunity they have been presented with.
“You have a critical role to play in keeping the sport of tennis alive and creating the impact that is desired for the sport. You are the ones who will be creating the impressions on the young minds of the students who will be coming through the halls of this facility or in the communities where you will be serving them.”
Belrose alluded to the perception of tennis still being considered a “bourgeois” sport and encouraged those in attendance to dispel that stigma in order to make it more accessible to the public.
“People like me did not come from a wealthy background. I was a commoner, an ordinary citizen like Vernon (Lewis) on the streets and we got this opportunity and we fell in love with the sport. We have these stories out there and we have to use them so people can understand that it is open for everyone. And you have to create an environment that will make everyone feel that they are a part of this process and they can grow and learn.”
The level one course is just the beginning of the Association’s plans to continue elevating the sport on the island. They look forward to conducting more coaching clinics, but are now focused on also getting more qualified officials on the court to accommodate the ever-expanding tournaments. The grassroots program is estimated to be three hundred strong. The future of St Lucian tennis continues to rise!