By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Tennis Association (ABTA), Cordell Williams, is calling for a unified approach regarding possible funding for the country’s elite and professional athletes.
Speaking recently on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Williams first acknowledged that once an athlete decides to go pro, that neither the association and or the government are obligated to provide funding outside of preparation for national representation.
He added, however, that given sponsorship limitations from a private sector perspective, there must be a collaboration to ensure that the basic needs of all elite athletes are met.
“We can do a lot to help our juniors to get them to the university level but when you become a senior and you now want to try the professional level, then that requires major funding that the association doesn’t have. So what is happening is that even though we get our juniors to university and they get their degrees, they really don’t play tennis again. It’s an expensive sport because you have to pay for court time, you have to pay for a coach and you have to pay for travel, so sometimes you’re losing more than you gain. So, what’s happening now is that as our juniors graduate from college where we thought we would have them for the next level, they then get good jobs and start working,” he said.
Williams, who is also a tennis coach and a former national player, believes that the issue of funding is one that should have been solved many years ago and policies put in place to dictate how it should be done.
“Fourteen years ago, we had a minister who played tennis who was minister of sports and education and pretty much didn’t do anything to help anyone, so for me to now say what to do and what not to do doesn’t make sense. They [government] have their own ideas when they get there, because had something been in place back then when we had Carlton Bedminsterand other players who would have been the same age as Jody Maginley, they would have gotten the opportunity and maybe the door would have been easier for Jody and others to come; but nothing had happened then,” he said.
“There is not much from the association’s point of view that we can do more than what we are doing in terms of trying to give everybody the opportunity to reach their goal. Each year, my drama is to find $15,000 to pay the international tennis federation so that these players can get the opportunity they need to progress,” the tennis boss said. Jody Maginley, who had an ATP ranking of 1275 in March this year and is currently ranked 841 in doubles, is the country’s lone professional player.