Azar wants to grow sport of tennis from bottom up

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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TENNIS Jamaica President John Azar, still in the early days of a three-year term, says development from the youth level is the utmost priority for his administration.

“We want to grow the sport through investment in grass-roots programmes and in the primary schools,” he outlined during a recent sit-down with the Jamaica Observer.

“Our aim is to be hosting monthly junior tournaments at the National Tennis Centre,” he said, while stressing the importance of capturing the interest of young talent.

“We want to create that environment in which people are going to want to play the sport; juniors are going to want to come out and play tennis as against playing whatever other sport may be there,” he added.

Azar argued that a key focus will be the association's move to have a more integral role in staging junior tournaments, thereby increasing the likelihood of raising more money to aid development.

“Tennis Jamaica will start hosting monthly junior tennis tournaments. In the past, the national association would host one junior tournament a year. And then you had other associated parties hosting private tournaments that the association would sanction.

“But while we're certainly going to continue to support other parties having tournaments, we feel that it's part of our responsibility as a national association to oversee events ourselves.

“When you're hosting events yourself, then clearly any financial benefit or proceeds from the tournament will go to the national association, which can then be reinvested in the growth of the sport,” he stressed.

Azar, the managing director of security firm KingAlarm Systems Ltd, was elected Tennis Jamaica boss on April 30. But the full board was not in place until recent weeks.

The rest of Tennis Jamaica's executive comprises Aubyn Hill, first vice-president; Dwayne Pagon, second vice- president; Errol Campbell, third vice-president; Kristofer Martín, treasurer; and Nancy Pinchas, honorary secretary. There are nine other board members.

Azar noted that Jamaica's advancement from Group Three to Group Two in the international Davis Cup team tournament in June is already a highlight, and one that has caught the eyes of potential corporate partners.

“The full board has really only been together for a few weeks. While it's been a short time, we have certainly been engaging persons in corporate Jamaica.

“Jamaica had been in Group Three for the past 12 years, and basically always trying to get promotion. We put together a team, had them together training, and the team was promoted.

“I have always felt that if the brand is strong corporate Jamaica will want to associate with that brand. Certain sponsors — who've seen a lot of positive press around the Davis Cup and other things — without us even reaching out to them, have reached out to us as an association.

“At present we have in excess of 10 companies which have never sponsored tennis — certainly not in the past 10 to 20 years. To me, it's a good sign. It means that people are taking note of the direction that we're going with the sport,” Azar said.

He insisted that his administration is keen on thinking outside the box in relation to raising money to finance the association's operations and programmes.

“You have to get creative to see how we as an association can grow revenue,” he told the Observer.

“Under the previous [administrations], the cliche was 'we nuh have nuh money'. But at the end of the day, you're not going to have money unless you are pushing and pushing hard, and even then there's no guarantee that you're going to have sufficient funds.

“But if you're not pushing, not having sufficient fund-raising efforts, then clearly you can't look any further as to why the association has no money to invest in the sport,” said the local tennis president.

Azar said a major goal under his leadership is to mend fences after sporadic ramblings amongst opposing factions in the past, and to facilitate conditions for the sport to flourish.

“If you follow tennis locally for the past however many years there have been well publicised areas of contention, for want of a better term. From taking office, we have certainly worked hard to repair the tennis brand by bringing together previously divisive factions. We are a united team, we have been very inclusive and working together for the good of the sport.

“We can't necessarily snap our fingers and create champions, but as an association, you create the environment in which excellence can thrive. I think once you're doing that on a consistent basis then the end result will ultimately be the creation of champions,” he said.


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