AMIDST the loosening of the COVID-19 restrictions, the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association hosted a successful International Tennis Federation’s National School Officiating Course at the National Tennis Centre over the weekend.
The two-day clinic, held on Saturday and Sunday and consisting of both theory and practical sessions, was conducted by Michael ‘Mickey’ Williams, the Bahamas’ highest ITF official.
“It’s been very, very good. We had about 11 people live here at the National Tennis Centre and then we had about four watching virtually from two Family Islands,” Williams said.
“The response has been very good. They have been eager to learn from both sessions. Yesterday (Saturday), we did the in-class sessions where we went through the rules of conduct and all of the procedures. This morning (Sunday), we allowed them to deal with the line umpiring and chair umpiring. Now we have them on the court where they are implementing what they have been taught. So it went very well.”
Williams, a former president of the BLTA who has officiated at more international events than any other Bahamian, said the only problem is the fact that there are no local tournaments being staged, so it’s quite difficult to get the participants to put what they are taught into practice in to play, but at least the BLTA will have another core of officials to call upon whenever they get the green light from the Competent Authority to resume their sporting activities at the NTC.
“Once we can get some tournaments going, I think it would allow them to put into practice some of the things that they would have learned from the clinic,” Williams said. “We just have to keep them motivated because this bodes well for the future of tennis in the country, to have some more officials to officiate at our local tournaments. And hopefully we can get them developed to officiate at the international tournaments.”
BLTA president Perry Newton said the officials’ clinic was one of the items on their agenda when they took office and he’s proud to know that they were able to pull this one off, even in the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is something that we know is necessary, getting everybody to the level where they can officiate at our tournaments and in the process, we hope that it will raise the level of competitions at the tournaments,” he said.
“We like what we’ve seen from a local perspective and hopefully this will help us as we move into the international aspect of the sport.”
Newton said through the support of the ITF and the Bahamas Olympic Committee, they were able to pull off the course.
A total of 32 persons signed up, but only 11 were allowed to participate in person from New Providence. There were an average of 4-5 persons from the Family Islands, who got to participate in the clinic virtually from Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera.
The list of participants were Esther Newton, Steve Taylor, Everette Munroe, Shayvon Clarke, Nolan Johnson, Machara Tucker, Stephen Thompson, Tara Mactaggart, Marion Bain and Larikah Russell from New Providence, Ronald Johnson from Grand Bahama, Leon Pinder and Giovanni Bowe from Abaco and Robert Atwood from Eleuthera.
Another session will be staged on November 28 when Newton said they anticipate having more persons engaged in the course from New Providence as well as the Family Islands.
“This allows us, whenever we have tournaments, to staff them with more trained officials at the various levels,” he said.
“So hopefully when we reach the semifinals and finals, we can have a complement of officials outside of the chair umpire and ball boy and girls. We will have some line officials to make it quite a competitive tournament.
“We had about a third of our participants being females, so I think that’s really excellent because we want to be able to get more women involved in our sport at the official level,” he stressed.
“So it was a very positive thing for the association to have more females involved in the sport. Too many times when we finish playing, they just walk away. But we want them to get involved in coaching and officiating and so this is a step in the right direction.”
Once they have gotten the all clearance to hold sporting activities at the NTC, Newton said they are looking forward to engaging their new core of officials into the scope of things.