The 2022 North Pacific Regional Championships in Guam has again been postponed with the annual tournament that pits the best junior tennis players in this part of the Pacific now set for November.
Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president Jeff Race said the tournament, which was originally slated in June then moved to September, has now been moved to November because of the U.S. territory’s increasing cases of COVID-19. It was postponed altogether in 2020.
“It’s been postponed until November. Guam has been averaging over 160 COVID-19 cases a day. No way to take kids into that situation this month. We’ll just keep training. It’s tough for several reasons,” he said.
Race said majority of the CNMI’s junior players are able to continue to train, but the multiple postponements of the NPRC and the succeeding Pacific Oceania Junior Championships are making it tough on the players.
“These young players have been preparing to play in regional and Pacific-wide tennis events for two years. It’s their primary goal at this stage for most of them. If you don’t have the opportunity to even pursue your goals, after a while you might start to ask yourself why you’ve been doing all this training and hard work? What’s it for?” he said.
The CNMI National Tennis Team coach and CNMI Sports Hall of Famer said he tries his best to keep the Commonwealth’s junior tennis players motivated.
“As a coach you try to keep your players motivated without the goals but it’s a challenge. Some of the most focused kids are just rolling with the punches and patiently waiting for their chance. I try to emphasize that we’re all having fun out there playing the sport but having and reaching for goals is really what gets the serious players’ blood going,” he said.
Race lamented that the other difficult aspect of multiple postponements due to COVID-19 is the timing.
“Over the last 30 years we had developed a pretty good ‘periodization’ program. It’s common in sports. You try to time it so that your athletes reach their peak technically, tactically, physically, and mentally at the most important time of the year. Well, that’s out the window at the moment…for everyone. So at least it’s fair. We’ll just keep on training and I think it’s key into the immediate future, say 18 months, to just maintain a flexible attitude and hopefully we’ll be ready to go when the opportunity presents itself. Or, at least, more ready to go than the other guys,” he said.
CNMI junior players that get to go to the NPRC are determined by their junior ranking that NMITA keeps tabs on. Winners of the NPRC will then go on to compete in the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Lautoka, Fiji. Albeit, due to the multiple postponements a trip to the South Pacific late in the year is still a big question mark.