With most sports codes seemingly realising the importance of grassroots development, the Botswana Tennis Association has made sure that it’s not left behind.
The recent games held in South Africa, saw team Botswana coming out second to the perennial front runners, the hosts, but also even won some gold medals as well. In the past the team used to be knocked out at the preliminary group stages which limited the number of points they could accumulate.
All the athletes who participated at the games went through all the association’s development structures. In an interview with the association’s technical director, Boikobo Gaolebale, at the Electric Junction Junior Championships, he revealed that in terms of technique and skill the local lads match their counterparts elsewhere in the world. He added that there is also consistency on his students “which goes to prove that indeed grassroots development helps”.
Most of the players who did well at the South African held games also did well at both the recent Molepolole Open and Electric Junction tourney that ended this week at Notwane Courts in Gaborone. Players such as Bakang Mosinying, Lame Botshoma, Thabiso Mabaka and Kitso Leshope, have been outstanding.
Gaolebale said that through the International tennis Federation (ITF) and Olympic Solidarity courses, their coaches have amassed knowledge and that this has been crucial and ensures quality players come from their ranks.
The national team Coach Mthandazo Sibanda also echoed Gaolebale’s words saying that for the fact that their students continue to attract sponsorship from South African ITF shows, there is a direction they are heading towards and that direction is success. He also said that not only do the athletes end up in South Africa but they also qualified for sponsorship from higher institutions in the USA following their good performances in South Africa. This, he said, is further proof that the elementary skills they impart to their students are of world standard.
Among the players who have won the sponsorships are Tapiwa Marobela, Bokang Setshogo, Phenyo Matong, to name but a few. When asked why it is that they can not beat the South Africans if they indeed produce quality athletes, Sibanda explained that a lot still needs to be done so that Botswana can be at par with their counterparts. His reasoning was that infrastructure and equipment are relatively poor.
“In South Africa there are ITF centers which offer a curriculum that includes primarily tennis. They have more trainee personnel; as you might know, in tennis you need individual coaches than in other sports where a coach can adequately train 25 players. Moreover, they have more tournaments than us hence even if we may match them technically we fall short when it comes to exposure,” Sibanda reasoned.
Both Sibanda and Gaolebale said they were elated that at least companies are also realising the need for grassroots development as they continue to pour money in to the program. They, however, said it was not enough as the sponsorships they have been getting were mostly medals with no prize money.