When it comes to tennis, children in Grand Cayman have never had it so good.
Four brand-new junior courts, specially designed for youngsters aged four to 10, were officially opened last week.
The Paul Howard Junior Community Tennis Courts, set up by the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, are situated on West Bay Road just north of the Yacht Club.
Open to the public, these courts are the first permanent junior courts in the Caribbean. Designed for use with softer, slower balls, these smaller courts are recommended by the International Tennis Federation for all players aged 10 and under.
They allow children and beginner players to better learn technique, play more rallies and help in the prevention of shoulder and physical injury.
Numerous people contributed to the upbeat mood of the opening: the hoards of children who turned up to try out the courts, the international tennis stars who coached them, and Mary Jo and Michael Howard, who came to give their thanks and blessings for the courts named after their late son.
Cranking up the sense of occasion with her status as the world champion Under-14 female player, Ali ‘Tornado’ Black of Florida cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the centre.
Jeremy Superfine, president of the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, thanked Dart for generously loaning the site to the Federation.
He also made special mention of David Berry, vice-president, whose vision initiated the whole project. Other sponsors who contributed to the refurbishment of the previously derelict site were Kirk Home Centre, Vigoro Nursery, Paint Pros, BCQS and the Security Centre.
Around 40 young players, ages ranging from three to ten, rushed onto the courts after the opening ceremony. They were quickly swept into groups, with numerous coaches then giving them an hour-long run-around.
Wayne Ferreira, former world top-ten singles and doubles player, Tornado Black and US doubles specialist Megan Moulton-Levy, all on Grand Cayman for the Legends tennis event at the Ritz-Carlton, joined local coaches from the Ritz Carlton and Cayman Tennis Academy for the energetic session.
“These courts are fantastic, and I’m very happy to be here at the opening,” said Moulton-Levy. Her enthusiasm and energy with the children was inspiring.
“We are so pleased to have this facility up and running,” said David Berry. “By having these courts which are free and open to the public, we hope to expand further the number and diversity of kids taking up and enjoying tennis in Grand Cayman.”
With the federation supporting weekly tennis coaching in all government primary schools, Berry looks forward to seeing more youngsters from West Bay and George Town primary schools in particular enjoying play and competitions at the Paul Howard Junior Community Tennis Courts.
“Tennis is a great sport, and a great way to keep kids constructively occupied and out of trouble,” he said.
A Cayman resident, Paul Howard was an exceptional young tennis player. Modest, cheerful and very popular, he was a delightful young man who had the potential to be a pro.
The Paul Howard Junior Community Tennis Courts are now open for use. The Government After-School programme will be using the courts at specific times, as will Cayman Tennis Academy for lessons and these times will be given on the general notice board at the site.
But children are encouraged to turn up and just play, while for accompanying adults there is plenty of shade. No sign up is required and for people to access the rest room contact the federation. The junior court coloured balls can be purchased off-island, or the federation can provide children with these balls for a small donation.
The next event at the Courts will be the Cayman National Tennis 10s, on 17 November, a free event open to players of all abilities aged 4-10.
For more information on the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands programmes, contact [email protected], or on Facebook.