As the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) election of officers looms, another slate of candidates, spearheaded by Dyphany Mortier, has come forward to challenge Perry Newton and his slate of candidates for control of the local governing tennis body.
The elections are set for Saturday, July 4 at the BLTA’s National Tennis Centre inside the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, starting at 3 p.m. Each term is two years.
Mortier has put together a team whose vision is to “advance and make tennis a premier sport”. The other members on her team are Dentry Mortimer for first vice president, Kweku Symonette for second vice president, Jeff Mortimer for treasurer, Derron Donaldson for assistant treasurer, Kendria Ferguson for secretary and Chantelle E. Sands for assistant secretary. The council members include Robbie Isaacs, Brezile Hamilton, Kevin Major Jr., Philip Major Jr. and Shannon Francis. The Majors still compete.
Mortier, a past vice president and treasurer of the BLTA, said her slate is an experienced one with experience in the sport. One such person is Donaldson, who served two terms as president of the BLTA and is now the secretary general of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC).
“One of the main things for us was experience and depth in sports. Everyone on the slate came from grassroots tennis and that is our sole focus because tennis made all of us. It is one of the things that all of us have in common. We want to give back to tennis,” Mortier said.
In keeping with their mission statement which is “to promote, make accessible and continue to grow and develop the sport of tennis in The Bahamas”, Mortier said she is looking to allow grassroots areas to get more involved in tennis.
“We want to give those kids in the grassroots areas an opportunity to play an elite sport – a sport that even when I was a junior, it was a sport where you have to have money or had to be white in order to play. That is why we felt it was very important now to come back into tennis. For a long time, a lot of us walked away from the sport because we were disenfranchised by what was happening in terms of leadership. Over the years, we have noticed that it had gotten even worse in that persons running the sport had no idea what it took to even hit a tennis ball, what it is to move throughout the sport and what the sport can do for you,” Mortier said.
She reminisced about the community tennis courts and the utilization of them by coaches giving free tennis lessons on Saturday mornings. Mortier, who went to Jordan Prince Williams High School, also mentioned playing tennis in school and playing against other schools.
At one point of her tennis journey, Mortier served as head of the BLTA’s junior development program. She held that role for a number of years. One of the areas she is looking to develop, if successful in her leadership bid, is junior tennis. While the juniors is a key component, she said tennis can be enjoyed at all ages.
“Tennis is a sport for life,” Mortier stated. “It is a sport for everyone and that is what we want to make it. It is not just for juniors. They help for the sport but I have a few who come out to play all the time and they thoroughly enjoy themselves. We want to give everyone at every level that enjoyment again and that camaraderie – the ability to take an hour or two to hang out with your friends and play a clean sport.”
Three of the council members, Kevin Major Jr., Philip Major Jr. and Shannon Francis, are still relatively young and Mortier said having them on the slate is helpful to the development of the sport.
“Having Shannon (Francis), KJ (Kevin Major Jr.) and PJ (Philip Major Jr.) and those younger guys is so important as they have just left the juniors and it helps us to develop that part of it but it also helps us develop the next level. They need a support framework for them to go further. Kevin (Major) has tremendous talent. He does not have the support that he needs going forward for the equipment and finances, and that is what the BLTA suppose to be about – us being the support for persons of every level,” Mortier said.
Kevin Major Jr. is the reigning BLTA senior men’s national champion.
Mortier said she wants the voice of all of the juniors to be heard and one of the things that she has been fortunate of having is her interaction with some of them at her house as she is also a tennis coach. She said she hears their ideas and there are some things that they want to see around them and that is what she wants as well – to give them an avenue to express themselves and to try and help their vision come true.
The slate of candidates are excited for the elections but Mortier said they have a main concern, which is why is there a rush to have the elections.
“My main concern, given the current status of the pandemic, is the rush. This administration has asked that we have an election during the pandemic. Yes the government has lifted some of the constraints, however, there are protocols such as social distancing and wearing a mask. There are also limitations on gatherings. We have seen nothing from the BLTA in that regard in terms of advising anyone attending the election on the floor,” she said.
She said that they have asked the association if they obtained the approval of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Health to take the elections.
The outgoing president is Darnette Weir. She will not be seeking re-election this Saturday. The elections were to be held back in April but were pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.