Friday, November 2, 2018
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Mario Wright, Gavin Rolle and Cleon McQuay, three students of Centreville Primary School, were the first recipients of full, one-year scholarships to attend Impact Tennis Academy.
The scholarships, in addition to rackets and tennis shoes, were awarded to Wright and Rolle yesterday during a special assembly at the school by Impact Tennis Academy founders Ricardo Demeritte Jr and Owen Forbes. McQuay was not in attendance.
Also present during the presentation were Derron Donaldson, the secretary general of the Bahamas Olympic Committee and Evon Wisdom, the sports director in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
“It’s a really momentous occasion for us and it’s the first of a couple of scholarships that we hope to give out,” Demeritte Jr said. “We hope to give out about 10 and it’s the first three.
“We also hope that corporate Bahamas will come on board and assist in this initiative with the scholarships, but this shows that there is a lot of talent out there in the government primary schools and those kids have the natural ability to play the sport.”
For the past year, Demeritte Jr and Taylor have been working with a number of the primary schools, teaching the youngsters the basic fundamentals of the game.
As a result of what they saw, Demeritte Jr said they have decided to award the most promising players in the schools the opportunity to further improve their skills with the scholarships at Impact Tennis Academy.
The scholarships will provide transformation to Impact Tennis Academy at the Balmoral Club in Skyline Drive and they will also be allowed to participate in their Christmas, Easter and summer camps.
At the end of the one-year session, the players will be given the opportunity to participate in four Brajaxba Tennis Tournaments at the Gym Tennis Club in Winton Meadows.
Forbes said after introducing tennis in the schools two years ago, they have been impressed with the performances of the students and that is why they started with Centreville Primary.
“Our aim and purpose in Impact Tennis is to get this into all of the schools in the Bahamas,” Forbes stressed. “We know that a lot of the kids have never seen tennis before so we are just happy that we are able to get them involved in the sport.”
Wisdom credits the success of the programme to Demeritte Jr and Forbes, who conceived the idea of providing an alternative by increasing the awareness of the sport in the school system.
“We’ve been in talks about something like this from the time that Mr (Derron) Donaldson was the president of the association (Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association),” Wisdom stated.
“We’re happy that Mr Demeritte has taken the torch from him and is running with it into our schools. We are ecstatic to be partnering with him.”
Eventually, Wisdom said he’s hoping that the programme will mushroom to the point where they can extend it to the schools in the Family Islands. “Those sports for many years have been considered elite sports and they are not,” he said. “It’s just that we need to organise ourselves better and work with partners who have the expertise in these areas so that the sport can grow here in the Bahamas.”
Donaldson said when he was asked to come and share in the presentation, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity because tennis is still near and dear to his heart. “We want to continue to see the sport grow and what Impact Tennis Academy is doing is a step in the right direction,” Donaldson pointed out.
“The BOC is here to lend their full support behind this programme and we hope that we can see other sports doing the same thing because this is where you find the future stars.”
Sherline Moss, a physical education teacher at Centreville Primary, said she’s just humbled and delighted that they are the beneficiaries of the pilot scholarship incentives.
“This has exposed our children to a new sport and it gave them an avenue, outside of the normal sport like basketball, volleyball, softball and track and letting them know that there is something else out there for them to participate in,” she stressed.
“It’s also a lot of fun and enjoyable and I like the way the programme has been ran by Impact Academy. The sport is now being taught in the school system as a unit in our curriculum, so I’m also happy with that.”
No one was more thrilled about receiving the awards than Wright and Rolle.
“It’s amazing,” said Wright, a 10-year-old who is in the sixth grade at Centreville Primary. “I want to be able to achieve more goals in tennis. “Thank you.”
Rolle, an 11-year-old sixth grader as well, said like Wright, he has been a part of the four weeks of intense training they got last year. “I learnt how to use my forehand, backhand and slice and volley,” Rolle said.
He said it’s a “wonderful” feeling to earn the scholarship and he intends to make the best of it.
Neither one of them knew any stars they can emulate, but Beverly Lee, the mother of Rolle, said she anticipates that one day her son can become a future Bahamian star.
“I think it will be an excellent programme for him. It’s something new, so I am hoping that he achieves the best from it,” she said.
“From last year they were watching him from grade five and I was also watching because I’m a parent at the school. I think this will have an impact, not only on him, but the school because it’s something new.”
And Lee said it would be an even greater achievement if next year more students from Centreville Primary can follow in the footsteps of Wright, Rolle and McQuay.