Ilian Nachev, formerly Under-18 national tennis champion in Bulgaria, is coaching primary school students in Grand Cayman’s outer districts.
“The schools program, sponsored by Cayman National, has been extremely lucky to have Ilian on board,” said Simon Gunn, head of the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, which organizes the program.
“Ilian is supremely well qualified; he has experience at every level. He went to the U.S. on a tennis scholarship, and he played and coached college tennis in the [continental] U.S. and Hawaii, as well as acting as a coach to college teams. He’s also played, trained and taught in Austria and Germany.”
For several years Nachev coached at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman before moving to the Cayman Islands Tennis Club 18 months ago.
“I’ve enjoyed teaching in West Bay, Bodden Town, North Side and East End primaries this term,” said Nachev. “The kids get weekly lessons.
“My biggest challenge is to keep them focused, as they are only six- and seven-year-olds. We’ve been bouncing balls, tossing them, showing how the forehand and backhand works, rallying over nets. After three or four weeks, they actually started to play, and some quickly moved to three- or four-shot rallies, so that’s good progress.”
He noted that sports coaches [Ronnie] Roach at East End and Bodden Town primaries, and Tim Eastman at West Bay’s Sir John A. Cumber have been “very helpful” in making the lessons a success, as classes are often large.
Special equipment – small nets, small rackets and low-bouncing balls – are used to make the game easier for youngsters to pick up.
“At the end of term,” he said, “I am going to ask the talented ones to join the junior program at the Tennis Club in South Sound, where the Tennis Federation helps cover costs for local kids to play.”
Nachev, 38, is married to local teacher, the former Beverly Markman.