New points system for tennis in Northern Ireland discourages young talent
Tennis in Northern Ireland needs all the vision it can muster but the latest decision by the governing body would seem to be a backward step.
New rules affecting juniors - the lifeblood of the sport here - have changed the ranking points system which in effect discourages players from competing regularly against better opposition.
As clubs here are members of Tennis Ireland, you'd expect all tournaments to count towards ranking points - wherever they are played on the island. Not so, according to Tennis Ulster who in their wisdom have only nominated 10 tournaments south of the border from which points may be gleaned - and five of those are national tournaments.
Coupled with a decline in participation at tournament level - largely due to the cost of coaching - this decision will penalise those who travel south for tougher competition on a regular basis in order to improve their game.
And unless parents can afford to send their kids to international tournaments (where they can gain Ulster ranking points) it will mean top juniors either travelling south with no points on offer or playing weaker opposition in Ulster, which will not help improve their game in the long term.
In recent times Tennis Ulster has moved forward with the development of a pathway for players to the college system in the US, the first beneficiary being teenager David Weir, but the points ruling cuts across that by discouraging the top juniors from engaging in a higher level of competition - and could well distort the Ulster junior rankings with weaker players at the top by virtue of playing more Ulster events than those who have headed south.