Bayview Village Tennis Camp (www.BayviewVillageTennisCamp.ca), the Greater Toronto Area’s leading provider of first-class tennis camps and clinics for players of all ages and skill levels, is commenting on an interesting new use for shelter dogs in Brazil Open tennis tournament.
Stray dogs from animal shelters have been trained to act as ball retrievers during tennis matches. Four of these dogs are being used at the Brazil Open tournament, where they run after missed tennis balls and return them to their trainer. (Source: Savarese, M., “Shelter dogs take centre stage at Brazil tennis open,” The Hamilton Spectator, February 26, 2016; http://www.thespec.com/sports-story/6365608-shelter-dogs-take-centre-stage-at-brazil-tennis-open/)
“Tennis is a sport with a lot of history, but I think this is the first time dogs have become part of the game,” says Peter Nielson, director of Bayview Village Tennis Camp. “There’s always a lot of focus on how sports can be advanced through technology, but sometimes there are simple things like this that can improve the game too.”
The dogs were trained for months on ball retrieval and were debuted at an exhibition match. After successfully being able to retrieve out-of-bound balls, the dogs were then scheduled for use in quarterfinals and other professional games.
“As funny as this sounds, this actually can be a problem in tennis,” says Nielson. “You do need to have someone collecting the balls, or, if you’re playing a casual game, you likely need to stop to collect them every once in a while. The dogs could actually help with this.”
However, the intended push behind the use of dogs is to promote animal adoption. Cities in Brazil, like Sao Paolo, have a problem with abandoned stray animals.
“Tennis has always had a really big connection with the community,” notes Nielson. “You see tennis matches for charity, lessons to teach kids the importance of fitness, and other community events often. The animal adoption angle is a little new, but tennis always has been a community-focused game.”
As well, the trained dogs may end up being more cost-effective when used in professional tennis matches, as they could replace roles typically performed by people. For the cost of adopting a dog, tennis organizations could have a trained ball retriever for all of their games.
“There’s still this notion that tennis is an exclusive game,” says Nielson. “There’s more tennis lessons, community courts, and tennis summer camps than ever before, and the game is very accessible. I can see how using the dogs might even help with promoting the game as a friendly and fun.”
So far, the dogs have only been used in Sao Paolo. It is not known whether there are plans to broaden their use or if other countries intend to take advantage of the idea.
“We have no plans to use them at our summer camp just yet,” says Nielson, with a laugh. “Who knows? Maybe if this takes off at the professional level, we may just start seeing more dogs on local tennis courts too.”
Bayview Village Tennis Camp is the top tennis camp in the GTA. Its Tennis Canada-certified instructors work to teach kids not only how to have fun with tennis, but also how to play smart and safe. More information about the junior and advanced summer tennis programs can be found at www.BayviewVillageTennisCamp.ca.
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