School kids programme launched in Francistown

What have Francistown twins Lame and Same got in common with tennis champions Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and the Williams sisters?

They all love the game, and if dad Cosmos Chainda has anything to do with it, one day his girls will also be amongst the stars.

That is the dream the Francistown School of Tennis has inspired in children and parents as their ‘Tennis For All’ programme unfolds.

The idea is to introduce the sport to government schools in the area and invite children aged from 6 – 9 to attend training sessions on Saturday mornings.

The first batch of schools chosen to launch the scheme that began earlier this month included Our Lady of the Desert, Maradu and Ikhutseng.

Details of the programme were also broadcast on RB2, and parents were encouraged to bring their kids along to the School of Tennis at the Francistown Club.

TEACHER AND PUPIL: Coach Anthony and 8 year old Matilda
TEACHER AND PUPIL: Coach Anthony and 8 year old Matilda

Proud dad Cosmos from Somerset Extension needed no second invitation. His twin girls who attend Ikhutseng Primary School were tennis fans, having watched the game on television.

“The twins had seen the Williams sisters on TV and wanted to be like them. The problem was the school had no equipment, and no place for them to play. So when I heard about the initiative, I thought ‘lets try,’ and brought them here.

“This is the second Saturday session they have attended, and the experience has turned them from armchair fans to tennis mad players.”

Cosmos was amongst an impressive number of parents who had stayed for the three-hour session to watch their children who were part of the group of more than 60.

In the coming months other schools will be invited with the objective of selecting the most promising players for further training.

The idea is to find sponsors from individual or corporate bodies prepared to fund a child with potential.

Part of the funding would pay for the cost of coaching, and part would go to the child’s school to buy tennis equipment to encourage others to take up the sport.

The Voice has pledged P10 000 for the first of these sponsorships and hopes that other companies will join in supporting those who may have the skills, but lack the finances to develop their potential.

Local business enterprises Wheels and Royal Wholesalers are already involved in helping towards the costs of the programme, and have pledged to continue their support.

Once enrolled in the school the children will be receive expert coaching from full time tennis professional Anthony Claudot.

The 37-year-old French man is here on a three-year contract, and is excited about the prospect of developing local talent.

“I am tremendously encouraged from what I have seen in the first few months of coaching children already enrolled in the school. Now with this scheme to introduce the sport to an even wider audience, any child with potential will have the chance to progress.

PUTTING THE WIN INTO WIN: Cosmos and his girls
PUTTING THE WIN INTO WIN: Cosmos and his girls

“One thing I am certain of is that in within the next three years the future champions of Botswana will all come from Francistown.”

It is a vision the school’s proprietor Dominique Raguin shares, and it is his determination to raise the level of the sport in the country that has been the inspiration behind the school’s success.

His pioneering project began less than three years ago, and already the club has produced national champions at Under-13, Under-12 and Under-10 levels.

And now with the structures in place, continuing that success to senior level and beyond to the professional tennis circuit can only be a matter of time.

By then the Williams sisters will have retired, and in their place tennis twins Lame and Same may well be on the way to taking their place.

The journey from Somerset Extension to Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows has just begun.

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