#BTColumn – Olympic Road Tennis Games 2032?


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by Walter Edey

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee approved five new sports. The additions, which included skateboarding, added eighteen events and four hundred and seventy-four athletes to the Tokyo Summer Games.

Skateboarding began as “sidewalk surfing” in California in the 1950s. Surfers wanted something to do when the tides and waves were low and flat.

These innovators made skateboards from wooden crates and roller skate wheels; and surfed the sidewalks. Seventy-two – two years later, Sidewalk Surfing is part of the Olympics, just like Skateboarding – surfing in skate parks, not waves. (a skate park is a set of indoor or outdoor plywood or concrete ramps that mimic the curves and slopes of waves.

Barbados road tennis is an older sport than skateboarding and with a similar informal start. In the 1930s, a group of Barbadians wanted to play lawn tennis, but it was an expensive sport. Like surfers, they made snowshoes and nets with wood; searched for used turf tennis balls; and turned the roads into tennis courts.

The organization of the game and expectations are changing. In a 2020 media article, Dale Clarke, CEO of the Professional Tennis Association, shared a holistic view of road tennis as a sport and industry. Among other things, he said: “Progress has been swift and satisfactory as not only in Barbados the level has increased, but the support has extended beyond our shores.

Filipinos play road tennis, there are countries in Europe, Central America where people play.

Speaking about future changes, he said: “We have to be creative and try to form new alliances and get new sponsors.”

So are the new alliances that Clarke talked about enough? What about a brand name? Can it survive on its own as a competitive community sport? Or should it become an integrated sport for the rich and the poor, and blacks, whites and others? The master plan of skateboarding is common knowledge. It reads like a story and a storybook; and a business or entertainment relationship. Hear parts of the story:

1. Larry Stevenson invented the skateboard. Rodney Mullen added new maneuvers, styles and designs. Tony Hawk, born May 12, 1968, was one of the first professional skaters, the first to land a 900.
2. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, skateboarders were: punk rockers; had jargon and music; according to some, lived a rebellious life; performed tricks on the stages; and used skateboarding as a means of transportation.

This combination of competition, culture and subculture has transformed informal activity into industry.

This form of recreational art, which in 2009 would have had an estimated market value of 4.8 billion dollars, and 11.08 million active skateboarders worldwide.

Barbados now has its history of road tennis in California.
PZ Road Tennis Store offers 8 sizes of child-adult racquets and road tennis apparel.

The Barbadian road tennis enthusiast has formed an alliance with educators. Road tennis is part of a physical education program; and a STEM-based project. Road tennis teaches students math and science.

Without a doubt, the potential of road tennis as an activity exists. But will Barbadians hang on to their creation and continue to develop it on their own as a competition rather than borrowing ideas and learning from the development of other informal sports.

The 2032 Olympics await road tennis. A road tennis roadshow is late: TUK rhythms, dancers on stilts and drummers for half-time shows. Road tennis in Barbados needs promotions: festivals, tournaments between park and village teams.

Students should be required to research and write sports history to earn school credits. Lest Barbados forget, Trinidad has failed to convert steel cookware into an industry.

It has remained a treasure trove of carnival competition for too long. Other countries now manufacture and sell electric and amplified steel pans. Barbados: hard ears you won’t hear, your way you feel. Meanwhile, the The 2032 Olympics await Banjo Tennis or Zipp Tennis.

Walter Edey is a retired math and science teacher.

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