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Sunday Chat - Dreaming of a tennis academy

LeVaughn Flynn, Staff Reporter

She quit her law practice in late 2005 to take up the full-time non-paying duties as honorary secretary of Tennis Jamaica. Two years after trading her suits for casual tank tops and flip-flops, Christine Gore says she achieves a satisfaction that compensates for the absence of a cheque on the 25th of each month.

Of course, her decision was a well-thought-out one. With husband and president of Tennis Jamaica, Phillip Gore, agreeing to pick up the extra bills, the Gores delved into sports administration with a goal of revamping local tennis. And Christine's dream, the element that would define the Gores' tenure if they are successful, is a full-fledged tennis academy.


The Gores haven't only dedicated their time, but big bucks. Christine and Phillip, a developer by profession and chairman of Gore Developments Ltd., have helped to renovate the once decaying Eric Bell Tennis Centre with a view of preparing it to be the Caribbean's first tennis academy.

Christine said since they took office in October 2005, between $10-15 million has been spent on the centre, mostly through structural work by Gore Developments Ltd. The funding provided by the state-run Sports Development Foundation, in the region of $2 million, represents only one-third of their operating costs. To ensure a smooth operation at its office, two employees from Gore Development were seconded to Tennis Jamaica to help with administrative duties.

"This is all for the kids. This is theirs," said Christine of what has been done and what is to come at the Eric Bell Tennis Centre.

Christine took Sunday Chat on a tour of the Eric Bell Tennis Centre as she outlined plans for the complex, which she estimates needs another $20 million to be completed. The planned tennis academy would allow Jamaica's best young prospects to pursue tennis religiously without missing a beat academically.

As it is now, players get about 10 hours of practice each week. Christine said at least 30 hours is needed just for tennis practice, plus additional time for gym work and of course school work. The academy would facilitate this by providing all the children's needs in one central location: school, nutrition and training.

The best part is that all of this can be achieved at home instead of overseas.

"It's about a child having half an opportunity to educate themselves," stated Christine.

"I can't lament the decay of the education system anymore without doing anything."

A blueprint of the academy reveals boys' and girls' dormitories, a learning centre for studies, four offices, which are already there, a gym and an online high school administration office. There are also plans to build a members lounge above the tournament office, which will overlook all four tennis courts.

Christine pointed out that initially the academy will only facilitate four boys and four girls. Their every need will be met at the academy and hence a full-time staff of cooks, housekeepers and supervisors will be required. Like the tennis academies in the US, their schooling will be done online and all students will be equipped with a laptop.

"That's the best way for them to keep up with their school work," she said. "They take their laptops to tournaments so they don't lose anytime."

Things in motion

Christine has already begun to put things in motion as math tutoring is currently offered with more classes to follow. During the infancy stages of the academy, Tennis Jamaica will form a partnership with an established academy to get through the teething stages.

The "nearly 50" sports administrator once played tennis for Jamaica but quit a year before entering law school in 1975. Through their involvement in the sport, Christine and Phillip established The Scholarship Fund, which she says, has provided scholarships for 15 youths over the past six years. It was this involvement in tennis which led to her and her husband accepting an offer to run the association.

"Douglas Burke (national technical director) approached me and asked us to get involved and Philip decided to take up the offer on my request," noted Christine. The Gores replaced the Morgans, Ken and B.J., in October 2005.

Christine's affable demeanour makes her easy to talk to and it shows in the way the children at the tennis centre relate to her. With no children of her own, she has embraced the ones that cross her paths through the sport. Tinesta Rowe is one such athlete.

Rowe, who along with Canadian tennis partner, Melanie Gloria, have been ranked the No. 1 NCAA Division One doubles combination in the US, for Christine, is an example of what the academy can achieve.

"Her first two years at Fresno (State University) were very hard for her, but she has turned it around (her personal life) and has been able to settle into the business of realising her full potential and it's paying off for her," commented Christine.

The Gores have plans to achieve more than they have so far before their three-year term ends in October. Christine said it is too early for them to decide what will happen beyond October, but hope that their tenure will leave a legacy behind.

"I think we've made some very important changes in the structure of Tennis Jamaica and in the way it operates and I hope that when we leave, it will be a much more independent entity that enjoys the strength and autonomy it deserves."