TENSIONS are brewing in the name of fair play as a local tennis coach is sounding off on ongoing classism perpetrated by his association towards underprivileged players.
Sirsean Arlain, Director of the Tiger Tennis InFLOW Academy, spoke candidly to The VOICE about the issue which, he said, is stifling the potential of young tennis players.
Arlain blasted the board on which he sits, saying that the youngsters they have come across have showed extremely promising signs of successfully reaching international level. However, he said the selection process for funding is simply unfair.
“There are haves and there are have nots and they are just not given a fair shot,” Allain said. “So that needs to change and, like I tell them, I’m not going to stop; if I have to blast them publicly, then I will. But it all comes from the same place: to do the best we can do for the kids. I’d like to see my flag flown at a Grand Slam just like we see with Barbados, Jamaica and the like.”
“I’m pretty sour with some of the folks on our board, actually,” Arlain continued. “I just resigned being the head of the coach’s association because I feel some things have gone down, involving people just being malicious. I cited those things to them and I’m just going to get some separation for a while and focus on what we’re doing here, but just stay out of the mix while continuing to help kids.”
Arlain said he feels that whether a child is less fortunate or not, if they are talented, it is both the committee and the board’s job to get that child the funding needed to get them to where they should be.
The tennis coach said he does not think there is even a question as to whether young St. Lucian tennis players can make it to the top levels. However, the requisite dedication and funding needed all-round, including from food, equipment and travel, needs to be present.
Arlain said so far the academy has produced a number of top ten players in the Caribbean tournaments and the Coca Cola International Tennis Championship, with the latter now in its 35th year. Those players include Jamone Louisy (ranked at number seven) and Jean Philippe Murray (ranked at number two) for the Under-14s.
The success rate for the athletes is high, he said, especially in the Under-14s category. However, he said the association has dropped the ball on the matter of players who leave the Under-14s and go into the Under-18s where the training and discipline intensify.
He said this is because unlike internationally, where schooling is structured around training, in St. Lucia training is structured around schooling.
Arlain admitted that being involved in the sport does not come cheaply and that funding is needed by many who play the sport. But he lamented assistance funding not being allocated to those who need it most.
Arlain said: “We’ve had both girls and boys playing who come from different camps on the island, mainly between Vernon’s [Lewis] kids and the ones whom I coach. But we’ve seen (that) when it comes to the 18s, the dedication and also the funding that have to go in there is lacking because they have to travel.”
The tennis coach said he thinks the association, as well as the coaches themselves, need to step up in a big way and try to get as much funding as possible for the players’ growth and development.
He said: “If these same kids are given the funding necessary and get to go to the different events, know what they’re working towards and we provide the structure at each tier necessary, then the sky is the limit. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. But we give them a much better footing to stand on.”
Arlain said as a small association, on some levels, they have tried and continued to help as much as they can. In his case, he said there are students whom he has coached for up to six years for free.
One initiative he said the association is working towards is setting up a scholarship fund to provide students with school books, uniforms and tablets/laptops. He said this is to encourage the youngsters to work towards achieving good grades because tennis skills and talent are important, schooling is equally as important.