The Anguilla Tennis Academy has seen a lot of success in recent years in helping young Anguillians get tennis scholarships. The most recent recipients talk about their experiences.
WHEN DID YOU START?
Nzinga Banks: At age 6. I joined the afterschool program, so played year round.
Avern Gumbs: Age 3.
Keon Halley: I started at 10 and I’ve been playing on and off since. I got serious after high school. I was considering my options, so I came back here did the ACTs and started applying to schools.
Tamisha Richardson: At 7, but got really serious around 18, when I started thinking about getting a scholarship.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BEING ABROAD?
NB: Being a student-athlete, your life is split in two, and you have to make it work. It gives you structure. Our social life is hanging out with other athletes.
AG: It’s a disciplined lifestyle that requires a lot of sacrifice and time management. playing, but you also don’t want to be a loner and not have a personal life [laughs].
KH: Tamisha and I started in January, and
it was cold… too cold to play outside, so we worked out in the gym. We had to adjust.
TR: We’d get up at 6am to train, and it’d be very cold. Then we’d go to classes, then afternoon training, then back to class. You have to manage your time wisely.
DO YOU TWO HANG OUT?
KH: A lot! We’re the only two people from Anguilla, so we stick together.
WHAT DOES THE ATA REPRESENT?
NB: After Keithroy [Proctor], it took a few more years to get a proper pipeline to get kids to get scholarships. After me, we had Avern the following year, then Tamisha and Keon. It’s a ‘thing’ now. We’re waiting to see who’s next.
AG: Anguilla has a lot of talented kids in different areas, including sports. The ATA has allowed kids to develop their talents and excel, although that requires a lot of sacri ce, and discipline.
ADVICE FOR THE YOUNGER STUDENTS?
NB: It requires deciding that this is what you want to do and working hard towards it helps. It’s still a learning experience for me. There’s a sense of independence in being on your own, but that means you have to do everything for yourself.
TR: You have to avoid the peer pressure to party too hard, or get into trouble. Attitude is everything. You have to push yourself to get more done.
ANY PLANS TO GO PRO?
NB: Going full pro would call for a lot more training and a lot more money, but even if you don’t become a professional, a tennis scholarship allows you to get an education while playing the sport you love.
TR: I’m grateful that the ATA gives kids an opportunity to play, and potentially go to school. It’s been great for us.
NB: With the development I’ve seen, in 3-4 years, kids should be able to get into the top tennis schools. We’ll take it from there.