Tennis: The passport to a development journey in Uganda

 

Unlike tennis coaching in Australia, the Tennis For All Uganda program starts by focusing on community rather than individual development. But in the end both can result in good tennis players.

In October 2015, students at a Uganda school for the deaf are led through backhand stroke technique by Tennis For All Uganda chairperson-coach Muwereza Vincent.

The differences are vast; context is clearly everything. My tennis coaching programme in Australia is relatively individualistic. It focuses on individual children and their tennis. That’s just the way it is here. Their families will be involved to a limited extent and there are personal developmental benefits from participation in the programme. But overwhelmingly it is about the child, his or her participation in coaching, and hopefully in the future, in competition. It is a relatively narrow, one-way street, focused on individual children, with their tennis development the goal and destination.

In Uganda, it is more the reverse. The tennis programme is the result of a focus on the community as a whole and its children’s physical and social well-being and development. The flow of involvement originates from the children’s school and community. It is a much wider street in the opposite direction: uplift the community through education, use tennis to help do it and the outcome can be good tennis players.

Tennis for All Uganda was founded in August 2012 by Muwereza Vincent, now chairperson-coach and Kyobe Julius, now sports director-coach. Both roles are voluntary. Currently the organisation is active in three schools, including a school for the deaf in a slum area of Nakawa Division, Kampala District. Using often rudimentary and improvised facilities and donated equipment, more than 150 children from the under-8 and under-16 age groups, mainly from underprivileged families, are instructed in the fundamentals of tennis. With limited resources, TFAU is running a variety of programmes and activities from coaching classes to clinics and tournaments.

There is a five-year plan that includes an Education Outreach Programme. The plan envisages, among other things, launching tournaments and building a modern tennis centre. Coaches from outside, including other countries, also visit and work. There is passion, enthusiasm and a vision. According to Kyobe Julius, TFAU is the only such tennis organisation in Uganda.

In fact, the Education Outreach Programme is point #1 in the plan. It states what we know well: “Sport (tennis) is one of the most powerful development tools there is when it comes to young people. Its transformative power, its ability to unite, empower and teach makes it an invaluable aspect of any childhood. When the values and lessons that come from sport are set against a backdrop of poverty and inequality, they only become more critical. We put sport at the centre of our work because it has the potential to change a person forever.”

It can also change a society forever. If a child is in this tennis programme, he or she is in school receiving an education. If they are receiving an education then they hold, as the plan puts it, “passports” to better futures. The whole community will be uplifted.

The philosophy is almost the reverse of a coaching programme in a country like Australia, but it is one perfectly suited to Uganda.

Reprinted with permission Stephen Murphy originally published on sportanddev.org.

 

 

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