Mon | Oct 21, 2019

KingAlarm Jr tournament a catalyst for tennis growth

Published:Saturday | September 21, 2019 | 12:19 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s future tennis stars will be on display when the KingAlarm 2019 Tournament Series gets under way today at the Eric Bell Tennis Centre.

The tournament will feature junior players from across the island competing in boys and girls singles competition in 12, 14, 16 and 18-year-old age groups and doubles for 14 and 18-year-olds. The second tournament of the series is scheduled to take place November 2-3.

John Azar president of Tennis Jamaica and managing director at KingAlarm, expressed his excitement for the start of the junior tournament series, which for the association, serves as a platform to reshape the junior programme.

“We clearly realise the importance of match play and competition [in the development] of the juniors in the sport. This is the first in that field where we are aiming to have monthly tournaments hosted at the national headquarters by the association,” said Azar.

REVAMP TOURNAMENT

According to Azar, due to declining participation in junior tournaments in past years, a revamp of the junior tournament structure was done by the association with input from the island’s coaches, which he hopes will lead to an increase in numbers going forward. A key factor in the revamp is the amount of sponsorship that has been acquired for the series.

“What we have done in the past six weeks is re-engage with all the coaches across the island and we have also got sponsorship for a lot of the out of town children who will be coming in, who we will be assisting with accommodations and transport,” he noted. “We certainly expect starting the tournament on September 21 to have a lot of the seasoned campaigners, but we are also expecting to have a lot of additional entrants.”

The list of sponsors that have come on board the event include Mayberry Investments, Sandals, Proven Investments and the Guardian Group.

Azar is hoping that the series will be the catalyst for young players to foster improvement in their game and also for improved development at the youth level.

“We are excited that we are going to be seeing real growth in terms of the number of patrons. The more players compete is the more that they will improve and the more events that we have. That I think, in itself, is an incentive for juniors to go out and train hard,” said Azar confidently.

The staging of the junior tournament is one of the key initiatives for Azar and his administration after being elected president of Tennis Jamaica in April. He is adamant that the association from now on will have more of an ownership in staging junior events in the island than what has happened in years past.

“Tennis Jamaica itself used to have one junior tournament a year and for the rest of the year they would rely on other parties hosting events and [Tennis Jamaica] would then sanction the tournament. We as an association have a different view, and we believe that it is a part of our responsibility as a national association to host more monthly events, ensuring that the consistency with the planning of the tournaments is there. It is our responsibility to be driving the participation,” he declared.

“We are not going to sit back and just hope for the best and watch what is happening. As a national association, we do believe that it is our responsibility to host these events ourselves, and also to be engaging with the various stakeholders to ensure as best as possible that the number of entrants continues to grow.”