2017 brings the total number of children reached through Tiger Tennis InFLOW program over the past two years to over 350.
The program, which was initially introduced as a tennis club in 2008, has since been transformed into an Academy by 2016 and is delivered and managed by the principals of the Tiger Tennis Club at the Kenneth Wriggler King Multipurpose Complex in Castries. In summer of 2016, following the identification of rapidly depleting resources and deterioration of the infrastructure, Sandals Foundation invested over USD$43,000 in the transformation of this now state-of-the-art tennis facility allowing the club to continue to its mission.
The Academy emphasizes youth empowerment through education, discipline, dedication to sportsmanship and concern on and off the courts.
According to Mr. Sirsean Arlain, president of the Tiger InFLOW Tennis Academy, “We teach the importance of understanding the balance between sports (professional) and education and discipline (personal) development in order to be successful throughout life and become positive contributing members of society.”
Together, Tiger InFLOW and The Sandals Foundation have advocated for equal opportunity for youth in Saint Lucia, underlining the importance of giving children an opportunity to be exposed to sports such as Tennis at no cost.
From inception, the academy has given hundreds of children from age three through to adulthood a chance to play the sport.
Sports have proven to be an effective way to engage with children and youth via a medium that they enjoy whilst inculcating lifelong skills and values to include discipline, teamwork, self-confidence as well as dealing with success and failure.
Through Sandals Foundations commitment to funding the Tigers InFLOW Tennis Academy program in 2015, some 200 students received free tennis lessons on a weekly basis through the schools’ program. Sandals Foundation then extended their support of the program in 2016.
“I cannot put into words what the Sandals Foundation has done for us. The facility refurbishment totally changed the face of not only the facility but a part of our capital city Castries. In 2017 we are making a push to include 4 more schools and also have meets (mini tournaments) within our program. This will be year three with us and will be the ultimate growth barometer with the schools’ tournament and the ability to get kids to the playing standard of national and international events,” Arlain said.
He revealed a new twist for the 2017 season of the program that will allow for a personal touch for each participating school.
“We are planning a jungle themed event with each school adopting animal names and being introduced to team competition. We are pushing for 8 schools matched up in a round robin competition. The plan is to get 50 kids from each school totaling 400 kids joining the program all at once,” the program director said.
At the end of the competition aspect of the program, the 2017 chapter is expected to go further by admitting the best players from each school into the academy and furthering their training to have the participants ready for international standing.
Director of Programs for the Sandals Foundation Heidi Clarke notes, “We are making strides to change the existing culture where sports is considered only as a co-curricular activity. Sports is the foundation for life long skills that are needed in all spheres of life regardless of the career or personal path chosen. We still ensure that whilst we instill these disciplines in our children as we learn how to master the sport we also present it in a child-friendly, action-packed atmosphere.”