Balls flew and rackets swished as the sound of excited children echoed from the courts of the Francistown School of Tennis last weekend.
Close to 40 children aged from 4-12 years had gathered to take part in the three-day tournament held in partnership with French company Babolat, world leader in tennis equipment.
Many of the children were from the thriving school of tennis itself, but others had come from as far away as Gaborone and Zimbabwe.
With the aim of helping children improve their tennis skills whatever their level, children were competing in 4 different categories, based on their skill levels.
All the necessary equipment specifically designed for young children (mini-tennis nets, balls, etc.) was provided byBabolat, generous sponsor of the event and supporter of grassroots development in Botswana.
The tournament was another step in the impressive growth of the Francistown School of Tennis, which in less than a year has transformed the local tennis scene, especially at youth level. And judging by the standards displayed over the weekend, several of the children appear destined to play the game at the highest level nationally.
In the past the sport has been dominated by clubs from the south of the country, but thanks to the initiative of the school’s director Dominique Raguin and head coachOaitseThipe, the north looks set to mount a significant challenge for national honours.
In coach Oaitse the club have invested in the experience of a man who has a CV that includes over four years in tennis academies in the USA, and who has already led some of his young charges to success in tournaments locally and in Zimbabwe.
As much as coach Oaitse has worked on the skill levels of the children, he has developed in them a love and enthusiasm for the game, qualities that were abundantly evident in last weekend’s tournament.
“Tennis is great for improving concentration levels as well as hand and eye co-ordination, but without the fun there would be no enthusiasm for the game, and no progress. At this level it is not so much about winning but playing with a smile on your face and joy in your heart,” he said.
An example of what the coach was talking about could be seen in six-year-old Mark Nawa, a winner in his section, who six months ago had never held a tennis racket.
The yelp of delight and smile on his face as he received his winner’s medal and trophy said as much about his success as the few words he managed as a victory speech.
“I did it,” he shouted, fist raised in celebration to the laughter and applause of his friends and fellow competitors.
10-year-old ManaramMendis, also distinguished himself by winning no less than 3 titles in 2 different age categories.
- Mini-Tennis: Winner: LefikaSegokgo
Runner-up: Asfandyar Shah
All 3 players play at the Francistown School of Tennis.
- ¾ Court (Orange Balls):
Winner: Mark Nawa (Francistown School of Tennis)
Runner-up: Kyle Bezeidehout
3rd: ThandoSiziba (Tennis Petros, Zimbabwe)