GLTA fights facility bug bear but Goodluck is optimistic

The Guyana Lawn Tennis Association (GLTA) has covered great depths in 2016 under new President Jamal Goodluck. It has been a mixed year for the sport but the 26 year old President should be commended for his input so far.

Guyana Tennis Team to the Tennis Inter-Guiana Games 2016 copy
Guyana Tennis Team to the Tennis Inter-Guiana Games 2016 copy

The youths were competitive on the international scene and showed lots of promise for the future. However, there are the odd challenges, like any other entity, that the GLTA face. One key challenge is a facility to ensure the expansion and development of the sport.

Guyana Times Sport had a one on one with the President to review 2016 and take a look ahead into 2017 with the President Jamal Goodluck

What or who encouraged you to seek the highest office of tennis in Guyana?

First serving on the association as the assistant PRO and then the PRO, I was afforded the opportunity to serve under the tutelage of former president, Grace McCalman, who I saw worked tirelessly to move the sport forward. The sacrifices I saw made by her and other members of the executive really solidified my passion to make a greater impact in the sport and being at the head of the association would have aided my effort to bring change into the sport. As PRO, I got the picture of the state of tennis through the lens of players, spectators, sponsors and particularly the young players coming up.

Despite the gloom that presented in challenges, I saw the excited players, bonds built, rivalries that forced growth and a safe space in which young people from all walks of life met. I saw opportunities grasped and lives changed. The urging of fellow young people compounded with my desire to serve the tennis community led to the ultimate decision of running for the office.

You are the youngest President of any sport discipline in the country, tell me how has it been during your first year in office?

Technically eight months, but feels like 2 years. That is to say that there is always something to learn and a constant push to make your effort a reality. While sport transcends all ages, I think it is an embodiment of youth. A greater appreciation is fostered and a sustainable path for sports is created when youth are invested in leadership roles. I encourage any young person to take up the challenge and forget the status quote. You would not get it right all the time but it is a learning process for yourself and the organisation. I think that has been my lesson so far as a young president. Being youthful, you are bursting with ideas, the drive to push and fix everything. I have learnt that some broken things are signs for growth and opportunities to build. There were some challenges as expect but with team work I know that the vision will be achieved.

What are some of the challenges you face being at the helm of GLTA?

The challenge of being at the helm of the association is moving our plans at a robust pace due to the slow nature of bureaucracy as well as the lack of engagement by officials. Guyana being a small state, the emphasis of sport should not be marred with such a label. An audience with the subject Minister has been sought from the beginning of my term and yet to be materialized. The association is always grateful to our long standing partners. However, like most associations finance seems to be a challenge in preparing our children for international competitions or standard facilities.

What are your biggest achievement and disappointment to date?

My biggest achievement would be the team work in strengthening the association. Although we do not have a single lighted public court, broken surfaces and no facility as yet, we were able to work as a new team and place strategic emphasis on where tennis will go. This achievement will be a testament to a stronger organisation that manages and grow beyond the individuals and personalities. My disappointment is not seeing the same enthusiasm to remedy the substandard courts.

The GLTA is still in search of its own facility, any hope of getting there or close to there in 2017?

I think getting closer to attaining that dream this year.

If you were the Minister in charge of Sport what would you have done to develop tennis in Guyana?

Understanding the gravity of work the Minister has to do, it would be key as Minister that I grasp the magnitude of overseeing all sport needs along with my other portfolios. For the development of tennis or any other discipline I know that the movers and shakers, associations, are the ones on the ground who know the realities, the needs, the solutions and are driven to work because they belief in something greater than monetary gain, which is visible through the passion to service the sport. They give of their time and monies to the slightest difference. Therefore, engagement of tennis association in my overall plan for sport would be at the top of my list. I would listen to their strategic plan to find the niche area of collaboration. Aside from the strategic point, tangible commitment in the form of a subvention and a standard facility are the basics. A MoU for the National Raquet Centre would be signed between the Ministry and the Association to bring the facility to a standard that is worthy of the name. Having an insight to the vision, the work to completed and maintain the facility I know that the association will be instrumental in the administration of the programmes and facility. Although added responsibility is given to the association as partners, they are accountable to the deliverables. That would be my short term commitment to tennis at the high performance level. In the long term, a structured tennis programme in the schools physical education curriculum will be implemented to feed the high performance level and a cadre of skilled coaches developed.

Are there any upcoming or present players who you see could compete for a grand slam? If no, what would it take to create such a player?

We have children with great talent but are not at the grand slam level. To create that player, we will need to go through the process in making the right environment. Although the Williams sisters started on broken courts, for them to attain the next level they were given the best. Our children deserve and need the best. As people within leadership position, we should never be comfortable and accept mediocrity of standard because our children will be a product of that environment. Creating a slam player is also dependent on the level of coaching they receive. The association is proud of the coaches that dedicate through sacrifice but greater expertise is needed to feed into the coaches association and children. There probably would not be enough space in the papers to cover this question but above else, it must be engrained in our philosophy of how we structure our school system and nurture and our children to produce that desired outcome. School is structured around tennis to meet the children’s academic needs and balance of the sport. Tennis or any sport cannot be an afterthought or “just a thing for the child to do”. It must be treated with seriousness and professionalism from the beginning.

From most if not all parts the IGG Tennis games 2016 which was held in French Guiana was deemed a success, what are some of the measures Guyana will take or how do the GLTA plan to be a successful host in 2017? We are definitely looking forward to host IGG next year in Guyana. For it to be successful we absolutely need an agreement in securing the go ahead to have four well surfaced courts in one location. This should happen in the first quarter of the year so how children can have the exposure to intense practice. I could not be more proud of the team this year as due to lack of access to a good surface, intense practice started one month before the competition. However, the level of their games challenged the top seeds of the competing country. With the right ingredients, 2017 will be our year.

What is your dream for tennis in 2017

My dream for tennis 2017 would be to win the lotto. If that does not happen, aside from all of the points made earlier I dream that tennis finds a grounded home to expand which can aid the development of my Guyana.