Anguilla Tennis Academy.

It's not Kite surfing... Let's talk about Tennis

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Me in 1985...

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Jason and Me

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Anguilla Tennis Academy

Anguilla Tennis Academy

I used to play Tennis when I was in Paris long time before I started Watersports (windsurfing, wakeboarding, surfing and Kite surfing). I was so happy to meet Jason few weeks ago. He is the Executive Director of this project, he has a fresh ambition, full energy and he wants to "push the mountain" (French expression) for Anguilla's Kids. I didn't meet this kind of inside rich person on this island before and it was important for me to share with you this new project in Anguilla.

Tennis Courts at the ATA Facility Inaugurated

In a ceremony held on Monday, July 9, at 8:30 am, many gathered to inaugurate and bless the tennis courts at the Anguilla Tennis Academy’s new facility in Blowing Point. With the start of an organized tennis programme in 1996, it was the dream of Mitch Lake to provide world-class tennis for world-class children. Although the ATA’s tennis classes have been primarily based on one deteriorating court in Webster’s Park, the ATA coaching staff has somehow managed to produce crops of successful tennis players for the past 12 years. With Mitch’s dream almost complete, it was fitting that as soon as the courts were ready, that they be inaugurated and blessed so that the children could benefit from them immediately during the 12th annual ATA Summer Camp. As visitors, invitees, children, and parents arrived Monday morning, they witnessed the courts adorned with banners from local sponsors, rackets abound, hundreds of yellow furry tennis balls, and lush palm trees surrounding the building and courts. With a podium centred on court number two, directly in front of an enormous banner that read “Anguilla Tennis Academy Summer Camp, ‘Shaping Lives and Building a Future Since 1996,’ the ATA’s Executive Director, Jason Allen, invited everyone one to walk on the courts for the first time.
            Jason, with his voice initially trembling with excitement, began with his opening remarks in which he recognized the Honourable Minister of Finance and Tourism Mr. Victor Banks, the Honourable Mr. Edison Baird, Permanent Secretary for Sports Mr. Rodney Rey, Sports Director Mr. Alkins Rogers, the numerous sponsors, parents, and children. He thanked the many sponsors who have helped make the summer programme successful for so many years and mentioned how proud he was to be associated with such a worthwhile endeavour. He then asked Pastor Phillip Gumbs, Pastor of the Church of God ‘Holiness’ to come forward and bless the facility. After an eloquent prayer, Mr. Allen then commented, “before I welcome the next three speakers for some remarks, I need to say that this is obviously not the grand opening of the tennis academy, it is the inauguration of the tennis courts. The courts would not have been constructed without the help of three major sponsors; National Bank of Anguilla, Caribbean Commercial Bank, and the Social Security Board.”
            Mr. Timothy Hodge, Director of the Social Security Board, was then invited to speak to the invitees. Mr. Hodge mentioned that he purposely decided not to come to the facility until it was ready as he wanted to see this dream become a reality. The Social Security Board has a keen interest in tennis as it had originally built the three public courts on Anguilla and they have been dedicated to the ATA since inception. Valentine E. Banks of National Bank of Anguilla was then invited to speak. Mr. Banks highlighted the fact that NBA has been a sponsor since 1996 and has allocated funds to not only enhance the children’s programs, but has made a substantial financial contribution to the construction of one of the tennis courts. He also recalled his playing days and gave credit to Mr. and Mrs. Eric Martineau for having started tennis programs for the youth on Anguilla in which Mitch Lake took part. He said, “the ATA is an institution that will go on even when Mitch and Jason decide to move on and we need to recognize its value to the community.”
            Leslie Richardson represented Caribbean Commercial Bank as well as the ATA as he is a member of the board of directors. During his speech, he felt it vital to announce that this project was not about CCB or any other major sponsor, it was about a dreamer and his dream and the children of Anguilla. He mentioned that facilities like this will help shape the youngsters and he and CCB are proud to share in the dream of not only building the ATA, but building a new Anguilla and it is paramount that all Anguillians and visitors alike pour in their support.
            Before Jason asked the Hon. Mr. Victor Banks to speak, he mentioned that this project could not have happened if not for the assistance of Government in many ways such as the acquisition of land, duty free tax concessions, yearly grants, and support. Mr. Victor Banks spoke quite eloquently although he was aksed just that morning to say a few words. It is fitting that his entire speech be copied here in The Anguillian as his words are full of wisdom and timely for for the current state of Anguilla.

“This project is a project that identifies what can happen when someone has a vision and a passion to make it happen. It is not necessary for the people of Anguilla, Government, or Corporations to contribute to an event on every occasion. In terms of dollars and scents, we can spend all the money in the world but unless we have somebody with a passion driving the project, it doesn’t happen. I know that we are here today and that this is not the opening of the ATA, this is the opening of the summer camp and we have done this over and over again and we have been astounded by the kind of support that Mitch and his team have been able to generate and the confidence the corporations and the people of Anguilla have had in bringing their children here year after year to participate in this venture. We are proud of the outcome of this camp because it has not only meant that young persons have been off the street or that they are involved in meaningful activities during the summer months, but it has also built a future for some of them as Mr. Banks pointed out earlier and this is important because we cannot build Anguilla unless we secure the young people who will be responsible for taking up the leadership roles and positions as we move forward. Over the last years we have seen in our community some situations of which we cannot be justly proud. We stand the risk of losing many of our young people and I think that we should not be discouraged by that because there is always something we can do for young people. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for it to happen, they are salvageable. Everybody deserves a second chance and those who have not been able to benefit from this experience over the years, this moulding, this nurturing that comes from an event such as this also have an opportunity to come back in some other situation in some other project venture like this to make a change in their lives and make a positive contribution to Anguilla’s development. I say this because very often people look at the negative things among our young people but they do not see the positive things that happen. Mitch is a young man and he has made a contribution. There are a number of other young people in the community who also have the opportunity to make a contribution and the tennis academy is only one of those areas where young people can venture to assist in nurturing younger people. You can reach them much more than us adults. At some point in our lives we lose connection between the young people and ourselves, the language, the attitudes, the things they are thinking are things that stand between us and them. I believe that we now as older people we need now to make that positive contribution to youngsters who are prepared to take leadership roles and not turn them away and not ignore them because the effort here in this tennis academy project was a learning experience for Mitch as well and I can tell you that because I know the man. He has a passion, but there are times when he gets very much caught up in that passion and sometimes people get offended by it. But, it works, he comes back and he does what he has to do so we should not be discouraged in our efforts to assist in moulding young people at whatever point in our lives and I am speaking to youngsters who can reach out to those young people and a number have come forward with various projects over the years but after a while they have thrown their hands in the air. Mitch has not thrown his hands in the air and I want you to continue to give him your full support. Government certainly will and there are members of this community who have contributed to ensure that this project takes place. I remember the long discussions with Mr. Marcel Fahie and Mitch, with other members of Government, with other members of the sports committees, the differences that have existed, but he has persevered. The issues with acquisition of land, material for this project, the need for public officials to be supportive and timely in their support – all these things are the challenges you face and is part of a learning experience that we must all go through. This morning I am not going to waste the time of the youngsters who are anxious to play, I just want to say, congratulations to all involved in this event, congratulations to the corporate sponsors around Anguilla who have come forward very strongly to make this possible and thank you all very much for continuing to give the ATA and the Mitch’s Team your support.”

            After Mr. Banks finished with his congratulations, Mitchelle Lake was invited to say a few words as the keynote speaker. He started by saying, “I believe that Mr. Richardson was correct in that it is not about Mitch, it is about the children. I can attest to that as if it were about me, based on the challenges that Mr. Banks just echoed, I would have quit already. My dream of building a world class facility for the children is now a reality. It would have not been possible without the many sponsors and contributors. The projected date of phase 1 which is our main building and tennis courts is October of this year. We hope to complete phase two, the centre court and stadium seating by summer of 2008.” Mitch personally thanked Mr. Marcel Fahie for his dedication tot his project and also thanked Jason Allen and the other coaches who have worked so hard to make this 2007 summer camp a success.
            When Mitch finished, Jason instructed the coaches to take the children to their respective courts to begin play and invited members of Government, sponsors, and invitees to get a racket and prepare to hit one serve. The courts were then inaugurated by the children beginning their classes and serves being struck on courts two and three. The 2007 Summer Camp will go until July 27 and when the school year commences, the After School Programme will also be held at the new facility.

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