Tennis on the Brac is gradually flourishing. Two years ago, there was barely a child on the Sister Island who had ever tried tennis.
Now it’s part of introductory physical education lessons in the primary and high schools and many Brac youngsters regularly enjoy thwacking a ball around a court.
It was thanks to sponsorship from Walkers, the international law firm, that a tennis pro from Grand Cayman, Adam Bayley, made the first coaching trip to the island in 2012.
His visit was a hit, with children coming from all over the island to learn a new sport.
“The program grew from there,” said Eliza Harford, head of the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, which oversees the Brac program.
“With continued support from Walkers, we’ve now evolved to weekend coaching clinics, which are run by Noel Watkins of Cayman Tennis Academy.
“Noel’s been over a couple of times in the past six months, and has two more trips planned before Christmas.”
Watkins has not only taught students, he has also trained Brac PE teachers, plus sports enthusiasts Sue and Mike Hundt, to coach the sport, with the result that introductory tennis is now part of the curriculum.
The game is taught using portable nets – slightly lower than a standard tennis net – plus shorter racquets and slower-than-standard balls, which make the game really easy to pick up.
“Most beginners learn to rally, serve and score in their very first lesson,” said Watkins. “It’s a great system, strongly endorsed by the International Tennis Federation.”
In another major step forward, Hundt has organized for the Brac high school court to be resurfaced.
With a new tennis net and posts waiting to be installed in time for the start of term in September and with a hitting wall at one end of the court, young people on the Brac should soon have use of a full-sized, floodlit court.
The Walkers sponsorship will cover the cost of new adult racquets and a supply of standard balls, noted Watkins. “The Brac kids are incredibly enthusiastic, and some show great promise,” he added.
“Progress is steady and encouraging, and it’s obvious the students have been practising between coaching sessions.”