Azar evaluates Tennis Jamaica's selection processesFriday, September 20, 2019
BY SANJAY MYERS
TENNIS Jamaica President John Azar says his administration is making steps to change processes tied to player selection for various national teams.
Azar, who was elected local tennis president in April, explained that one of the contentious topics was that players invited to the national setup for overseas tournaments have had to finance their way or risk missing out on participation.
“I think that if you're representing your country, your being selected to represent your country should come down to your ability to play and not your ability to pay,” he said during a recent sit-down with the Jamaica Observer.
“So in that sense, we're certainly moving away from that. I think we have sent away three national teams since [April], and in each instance, we did not make it mandatory for the parents or players to pay.
“We will accept voluntary donation towards these expenses, but it's different than seeing each member of the team pay, some of whom are clearly not in a position to do it,” Azar, set to serve three years as president, continued.
Since taking over, he has spearheaded the tweaking of the national selection process, and there have been some successes.
In June, Jamaica progressed from Group Three to Group Two in the international Davis Cup team tournament.
“What we want to do is to hold the trials weeks prior to the tournament, so you can have teams training together instead of having trial just before the tournament. Obviously, doing it (hosting the trials sooner), you can focus on preparing the team,” Azar, the managing director of security firm KingAlarm Systems, argued.
Noting the association's desire to engage overseas-based players, who can qualify to represent Jamaica, Azar stressed the importance of following the rule book.
“We are in Group Two of the Davis Cup, but that doesn't mean that we are necessarily just happy to say 'yeah, we're now there'. God's willing we want to compete and our goal has become a bit lofty, which now is looking towards promotion to Group One.
“We've actually been in dialogue with a couple of persons, both male and female, who are of Jamaican heritage playing professional tennis with international rankings and looking at the possibility of them representing Jamaica,” he said.
He insisted that such a player would not be an automatic shoo-in for any national team.
“Their selection would not be guaranteed because Tennis Jamaica has selection criteria which includes, among other things, international ranking and (participation at) national trials. Our dialogue with anyone is not meant to bypass or usurp the regular Tennis Jamaica selection criteria.
“Ultimately, I can promise that our association is focused on ensuring that our selection process is always fair and transparent. That issue has been, for whatever reason, one of the sources of contention over the years,” he told the Observer.
Azar added: “We have a committee set up to review the Constitution to try to greatly reduce controversy going forward. Certain changes will have to go back to the membership to vote on. I think that over time you have certain gaps exposed which are open to interpretation, and this was one of the issues over the years.
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