After years of focusing on the grassroots development of tennis, the Francistown School of Tennis is now setting its eyes on bridging the gap to professional tennis, the school’s Director Dominique Raguin has revealed. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Standard, the Francistown School of Tennis said the time is now right to cross over to international competitions and eventually professional tennis. “When we started, we wanted to set up a high performance training centre specializing in grassroots development to train children in tennis from age of four to eight years until they play at international level at ages of nine and ten years before progressing to international at ages of fourteen and fifteen,” Raguin explained.
Four years into the project, the Francistown School of Tennis Director says the project is starting to bear fruit, as witnessed by the progress made by its pupils over the years. With limited tournaments in Botswana to compete in, Raguin says over the years, the school’s athletes have been taken to compete in many tournaments across Southern Africa, mainly in South Africa and Zimbabwe and the recent results have been very encouraging. In their recent trip to South Africa where they competed in the TSA series in Bloemfontein, the school brought home at least four medals, a testimony to the progress they have made over the years. “When we started this project in November 2012, our vision was to develop young players from the age of four years who will be competitive by the age of ten years. When we say competitive, we meant internationally competitive. Now I can safely say we have achieved our goal of developing competitive young players before the age of ten years,” the Francistown School of Tennis Director explained. With the first phase of the project now achieved, Raguin says the intention is to step up into the next phase. “The next step is moving up in terms of capacity, like bringing in sponsors and companies to get involved in the project to take top players between the ages of ten and twelve years more regularly to international competitions and continental competitions, something which we hope to achieve in the next two years, that is what we are working on right now,” Raguin said.
The Francistown School of Tennis Director says once the athletes have made the grade in continental competitions, the last step will be taking them to Europe when they reach the ages of fourteen and fifteen years. In line with this, the Francistown School of Tennis Director says they have always sought to have fully equipped centers as well as the best qualified coaches to train kids at the school. On both endeavors, Raguin is confident that they have achieved some degree of success, as they now have proper structures and facilities suitable to develop players. Concerning coaches, he says when the project started; they roped in Oaitse Thipe, who is one of the best qualified Batswana coaches to lead the project as head coach. When they parted ways with him, they then brought in some Zimbabwean coaches, who he says have now reached their ceiling as kids continue to develop. Ever since last year, they have now hired a highly qualified French coach, Anthony Claudot to lead the academy graduates into professional levels. As a qualified coach who has coached in France, England, Morocco, and Mauritius, Raguin says the French coach is bringing in valuable experience and it is already showing as the academy players’ performances have improved tremendously.