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Rankine Foundation empowering MoBay's youth through tennis

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Simone Russell (right) and father, Compton Russell, stand with one of several boxes of shoes donated to the Rankine Foundation tennis programme by fourth grade students of the Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School, East Campus, in Florida.-Contributed

Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer

Overall, tennis is considered an elitist sport that is played by the wealthy. Racquets are expensive, tennis shoes and other apparel are expensive, and there is a perception that one has to fall within the upper-income bracket to join a tennis club.

However, there is a move on nowadays to make tennis a sport for the masses.

The Rankine Foundation is trying to advance this effort as it spearheads an ongoing tennis programme for inner-city children in Montego Bay, St James, seeking to fuel their participation in the game as much as possible.

Among the group is Maureen Rankine, one of nine siblings, three of whom are tennis professionals in the United States.

She grew up in the community of Glendevon, Montego Bay, and was also the tennis trailblazer in her family. Besides being a tennis professional, Rankine has been a philanthropist for over 30 years.

She played collegiate tennis for two years at Broward Junior College in Florida and a further two years at Murray State University in Kentucky, where she graduated with a degree in business administration before playing professional tennis throughout the United States and Europe.

"I have a passion for tennis, and so it is this passion that has led me back to my homeland. I am dedicated to using tennis to enrich and make the lives of these youngsters better. Just like me, these youngsters can have an opportunity to get tennis scholarships to study abroad and may even follow in my footsteps of playing professionally," Rankine said.

Rankine is spearheading the construction of much-needed tennis courts and establishing the Rankine Tennis Programmes. She has hosted several tennis clinics and tournaments and provided free tennis equipment and lessons to several youngsters and adults in Montego Bay at the Sea Gardens Beach Resort.

"I am excited to say we have over 40 children who have participated in the tennis clinics and tournaments. We want to continue the growth and plan to have over 50 children in this weekly programme. We have also implemented a tournament training programme for our future stars that will allow them to train and compete in the tournaments here and overseas," Rankine said.

"As part of the programme, we try to provide transportation, lunch, racquets, and shoes, and most important, a safe place for them to spend a few hours weekly. In addition to learning tennis, we plan to establish a study space with computers and tutoring for them," she added.

Recently, the Rankine Foundation received a donation of more than 250 pairs of shoes donated by fourth grade students of the Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School, East Campus, in Florida. Simone Russell, teacher of the class who was influential in obtaining the donations, mobilised her school to assist the students.

Through the kind assistance of Food For The Poor, the shoes were shipped to Jamaica and players received much-needed shoes to continue their training.

"It meant a lot to the children, and we are really glad that we could help. The children that made the donations have learned about charity and seen it come full circle," Russell said.