What Barbadian Road Tennis Can Teach You About Business

Barbadian road tennis, or simply “road tennis”, is undoubtedly one of Barbados’ fastest growing pastimes. Cricket may be Barbados’ de facto national sport, but in recent times, the sport of road tennis seems intent on breaking boundaries. (See what we did there? Breaking “boundaries”?)

Requiring much less space than a cricket pitch, road tennis courts have been springing up all over the island. Road tennis courts generally measure 20’ long by 10’ wide, with a wooden ‘net’ that measures 8” high. The courts are usually painted onto neighbourhood roads, where they fit quite comfortably. Many times, these road tennis courts become the centre of activity within the community.

Road tennis is essentially a miniaturised version of lawn tennis, and was created in the 1930s by Barbadians who couldn’t afford to purchase expensive lawn tennis racquets or pay the fees to use the lawn tennis courts that dotted the island. Since its origins in the 1930s, the fast-paced, high intensity sport has become increasingly popular, and in the past two decades in particular, has seen an explosion in popularity among Barbadians.

The growth of road tennis has important lessons, not only for fans of the sport, but also for budding entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses. Here are three business lessons you can learn from the game of road tennis.

  1. Use the resources available to you

When the creators of road tennis realised that playing lawn tennis was financially out of their reach, they decided to get creative. Instead of lamenting the fact that they couldn’t afford to purchase expensive lawn tennis racquets, they used easily accessible pieces of wood to craft their own smaller, less expensive racquets. When they couldn’t afford to pay the fees to access lawn tennis courts, they used any flat surface (usually a neighbourhood road) to create their new courts. And when they recognised that the conventional lawn tennis ball wasn’t working well with their wooden racquets and the surfaces of road tennis courts, they used “skinned” tennis balls which had their fuzzy exterior removed. These skinned balls were faster and more suitable for the new sport.  As an entrepreneur, there may be times when you might not have the financial resources to play on your industry’s “lawn tennis court”. But that doesn’t mean that you have to throw in the proverbial towel. Sometimes, just like the pioneers of road tennis, you have to get creative and use the resources you have available to develop something new and exciting.

  1. Keep improving your game!

Road tennis can be a high-energy sport that requires lots of skill, stamina and concentration to master. Experienced players can torture novices with perfectly executed serves, cut shots and slams. If you want to hold your own, you have to constantly improve your game to be able to survive the onslaught of shots from those who have already mastered the sport. This lesson also holds true in the real-life ‘sport’ of business. As an entrepreneur, you have to keep “improving your game” by finding innovative ways of outperforming competitors that may be larger, better financed or more experienced than you are.

  1. Grow your markets!

Just because road tennis started out as a sort of “poor man’s tennis”, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Despite its humble beginnings, the sport is currently experiencing a tremendous uptick in popularity, and is played by individuals from all walks of life. Road tennis tournaments featuring Barbados’ best players are known to draw large crowds of road tennis enthusiasts. More recently, road tennis has been ‘exported’ to other countries and has even been played by lawn tennis titans such as Andy Murray. The lesson for entrepreneurs is clear – be constantly on the lookout for ways to grow your markets. Look especially for ways to make your products or services attractive to a global audience.

Not yet familiar with the game of road tennis? Check out short two-minute video clip of the sport.