THE local governing body for tennis, TENNIS JAMAICA, kicked off its Play and Stay School's Development Drive in three new schools for the Christmas term 2012.
This effort to expose the sport to new schools and develop talent across the length and breadth of Jamaica took shape last term with programmes in four schools. They were St Richards Primary, St Richards Prep, Holy Childhood Prep, and Half-Way-Tree Primary.
The drive is aimed at the 10 and under age group and seeks to bring the sport to youth who would not previously be able to participate. To this end, several schools in which tennis may have never been thought of will now have the opportunity to engage in this hitherto upper crust sport. Tennis Jamaica seeks to break down this concept of the sport and take it to the grassroots of Jamaica.
The new schools are: Mico Practising Primary, Jessie Ripoll and Mannings Hill Primary. They had their first sessions recently with several classes of students having tennis for PE. The principals of the schools were happy to have Tennis Jamaica offer this opportunity to the children at their institutions.
The Mannings Hill Primary was the first rural school to benefit under the development drive. The students were ecstatic with this first-time inclusion of tennis in the school's curriculum. This is seen as a major development for Tennis Jamaica as they try to spread the sport across the island.
Tennis Jamaica is very excited as well with the reception at Mico Practising Primary, as the students showed great enthusiasm and talent was unmistakably evident in the youngsters.
Excitement was also great at Jessie Ripoll where some 250 plus students were exposed to the programme on the first day. This was really a sight to behold as tennis was introduced on the football field.
The Tennis Jamaica team had their hands full and the possibilities are endless with this programme. A bright new talent was unearthed last term at Half-Way-Tree Primary with the discovery of Brianna Hart, who has shown great progress and talent. Tennis Jamaica will continue to guide her progress. Many more are waiting to be discovered.
Tennis Jamaica will hold the sessions in each school for the duration of the term and rotate to other schools for the new term. Players who show an aptitude for the sport will have their talents honed in programmes set up by Tennis Jamaica under the development drive. As the programme grows, Tennis Jamaica hopes to be able to set up vibrant self-sustaining activity in each school in which the sport is introduced.
Concurrent with its schools drive, the local body is also teaching teachers the new methodology of Play and Stay by staging workshops in the teachers' colleges across the island. This aspect of the drive is set to kick off very soon as discussions are ongoing with several institutions. It is hoped that with this empowerment of teachers to add tennis to their repertoire of skills, many more youth will be exposed to the sport.
Heading the initiative is former national table tennis coach and national table tennis champion Evan Williams. He has been appointed national 10 and under coach for tennis. The method used is the revolutionary Play and Stay programme being promoted worldwide by the International Tennis Federation the ITF. The system seeks to make tennis more user friendly and more attractive to kids who today are responding to teaching and learning sports far differently than before.
The Play and Stay method of teaching tennis to children emphasises the use of modified equipment, bigger, slower balls, as well as smaller playing areas. This allows tennis to be played anywhere even without a regular tennis court or net. It allows greater numbers of players to be engaged in the sport. It is also more cost effective than regular tennis equipment.