Former Tennis Player Fortuna Belrose Speaks Tough at NTC

Former tennis player and now President of the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee (SLOC) Inc who also serves as a Minister in the current Allen Chastanet led government was on fire when she delivered the keynote address at the Saint Lucia Tennis Association (SLTA) inaugural awards recently held at the National Tennis Centre (NTC) in Beausejour.

Belrose was in a no-nonsense mood when she went on to set the record straight, as she belted on a number of issues including the building of the National Tennis Centre. She also called on individuals who serve to act in a responsible manner and players to be fully prepared for competition when representing their country.

Present at the time were the SLTA President – Stephen Mc Namara and other members of the Association; Director for Sports – Patrick Mathurin; SLOC General Secretary – Alfred Emmanuel;    awardees, past and present tennis players, specially invited guests and members of the media.

In delivering her message, Belrose said, “Tennis is my favourite sport and I was fortunate to play for my country (Saint Lucia). I played with the likes of Jane Du Boulay and Vernon Lewis; and every time I mention Vernon’s name I remember that match against Grenada in 1984”.

“Grenada was just coming out of the revolution, Vernon Lewis at the time was playing Richie Hughes of Grenada and Richie was the bright spark in Grenada Tennis.  Vernon Lewis was giving him a rough time on centre court, he too was giving Vernon a rough time, it was a ding-dong battle between the two. The crowd got involved, they began chastising us (Saint Lucia) saying if Saint Lucia has ever been through war, Saint Lucia has never been through war, no. They were ranting and waving until our captain Johnny Easter decided to call the team off the court and that was the death of the Bernard Cup”.

According to Belrose, “What it said to me then, the power of sports and what it can do to rekindle national pride. They were out in the cold, they lost a leader… Maurice Bishop who was so charismatic for them and during that period they were mourning and they got the opportunity to really ventilate and express how they feel as Grenadians and Saint Lucia paid for it to a certain point”.

Belrose said, “When I played Tennis it was seen as a rich person sport. I played in the late 70’s through to the early 90’s.  For me I was always in the Ministry of Sports, so when I left Sir Arthur where I started playing tennis, I went into the Ministry of Sports, but because I was paid a salary I was able to work my way. I am not rich, but I played a sport people perceive is for rich people alone; I was fortunate in this respect and today as a Minister and an aspiring parliamentary representative when I go to them, I get the support.”

She added, “I was the Director for Youth Development and Sports at the time when the narrative for this centre was written to the Taiwanese. I recall Trevor Hunte kept our lives miserable in the Ministry because he wanted to see this facility happen, being the tennis partner of the ambassador at the time he came to us frequently  to ensure this project unfolded in the way that it did”.

Belrose said, “The work began, but I was transferred to another Ministry, that’s the nature of the Government Service, the work continued. I was happy when about 2009 – 2010 this facility was established/completed. It was established because all of us felt that we needed to ensure that our grassroots people got the opportunity to play, that was the core, breaking the cycle, with respect to not only the have’s being able to play the sport and opening it up to more Saint Lucians, that was our thinking at the time and I think we had people in the right places to make this happen”.

(L-R) ) Up and coming tennis stars in the making, Alysa Elliott, Joey Angeloni and Iyana Paul . (PHOTO- Anthony De Beauville)
(L-R) ) Up and coming tennis stars in the making, Alysa Elliott, Joey Angeloni and Iyana Paul . (PHOTO- Anthony De Beauville)

She continued, “I say all of this to let you know we must think of the greater good and have a positive attitude if we are to succeed in this country.  We need to be looking ahead; we need to be envisioning, and wherever we are we make the connections, we create the network to ensure what we are involved in truly becomes meaningful not only for ourselves but for our state”.

“The purpose of life is not to be superficially happy, it is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have made some difference… that is how you know you have lived well. That is the real purpose of life and for us to be able to enjoy life in that way we must have a positive mindset, a mindset that would be able to stand the test of time”.

(L-R) Some of the best local talent on court, Arden Rosemond; Jorja Mederick and Aviona Edmund. (PHOTO- Anthony De Beauville)
(L-R) Some of the best local talent on court, Arden Rosemond; Jorja Mederick and Aviona Edmund. (PHOTO- Anthony De Beauville)

“There are a number of fundamental principles that can be applied if you want to ensure that your mindset is right. Self-awareness is one of these. Many a time we see people who have no sense of purpose; they do not know what they about.  It is important for you to find yourself; discover yourself; know who you are, because when you know who you are it makes life so much easier for you. Your consciousness of your place in the scheme of things you would have realised who you are. You beginning to understand your weaknesses, you appreciating your strengths, and you recognizing your own potential… once this happens, you will be able to control your own perceptions. You will want to make maximum use of all opportunities which present themselves, opportunities to network, to connect, just to make it better for everyone else”.

“In this tennis fraternity we have people who do that; we have Jane Du Boulay. When I look at the work she is doing in the community, by giving back so much to sports, that did not just happen. We need to be able to give of ourselves in that way when we know who we are, when we are achieving within our own self, we want to be selfless and not selfish”.

Image of Culture and Creative Industries Minister, Senator Fortuna Belrose
Keynote speaker, former national tennis player Fortuna Belrose

According to Belrose, another fundamental principle was exercising freedom of choice.

In that light, she noted, “You need to be able to manage yourselves in relation to the roles and responsibilities that you choose to undertake. You freely decide that you want to do this. Many times, people come into organizations and take on responsibilities and then it’s like a burden to them. It cannot be a burden, nobody is forcing you to take on the role, you need to understand yourself well enough before you take on a position and of course participate in the way the association requires you to participate. You don’t just become involved for the sake of being involved, you play Tennis because you wanted to play, and you recognize the value of playing. You want to become involved in the association not to do things haphazardly, but to assist the young aspiring players reaching for the stars  and moving towards excellence, not operating in a don’t caring manner, but making sure that people are always focused on giving excellence  in terms of what they want to do in our society.”

Still sharing enlightenment, Belrose went on: “We must enjoy what we do. Some persons get involved and they do not enjoy it – they are even angry at being involved in the organization. We need people to relax, to enjoy what they do, and to recognize that they are contributing in a meaningful way and making a difference.”

In conclusion, Belrose noted, “In offering yourself for service, you must also be optimistic; you cannot be in a situation where you’re just not happy, you must assess the goal that you have set for yourself, you must assess those goals even within where you are to ensure that you are continually rethinking your strategy and making sure the environment you created for Tennis to blossom and develop for other young people to come in is one that we will be proud and happy for”.

Anthony De Beauville is The VOICE Publishing Company’s multi-award winning sports journalist. He works closely with a number of sports federations including the Department of Youth Development and Sports, the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee and other organizations.

He covers and contributes articles highlighting the areas of international, regional, national, community based clubs and schools sporting activities. There is never an off day as he stays busy... Read full bio...

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