The Botswana Tennis National Team faired badly in the just ended Botswana Open Tournament, as none of the athletes managed to go past the quarterfinal stages.
This is despite the fact that our lads had home ground advantage.
Speaking to Sunday Sports after the games, the winning coach from Lesotho, Lebohang Tsasanyane, said the problem with Botswana is that too much attention is being given to established athletes, while young kids are being ignored.
Tsasanyane said everything in Botswana is all about money, which is making it very difficult for youngsters to find proper training.
“I find that here in Botswana a very small number of tennis players are able to get the right equipment and train in the right facilities. These are the lucky ones who can afford private coaching. In Lesotho, the government has made it a culture that as many young kids as possible are exposed to tennis. Coaching and equipment are offered for free,” he said.
The coach, however, said the tennis facilities in Botswana are some of the best in the region, and advised that if the country could put more emphasis on grassroots development, they could become a powerhouse in the region and abroad.
BTA’s Public Relations Officer, Tuelo Serufho, said the association had a strategic review, to find out what they have achieved in the past years.
“We were mainly concerned with our performance in international competitions which, to be honest, has not been up to scratch,” Serufho said.
He said they sat down and, during their deliberation, came up with a number of issues that they believe are a hindrance to the growth of tennis in the country.
One shortcoming that was highlighted was inadequate coaching that has failed to reach out to as many athletes as possible.
‘We are currently in talks with the Internal Tennis Association to find out if they could not increase the funds they are allocating to us. We have also engaged Botswana National Sports Council and Botswana Defence Force to source for funds in order to train more coaches.
Serufho said another factor that has been affecting the performance of local players is the lack of match practice. He said compared to athletes from other countries who can have as many as 40 tournaments in a year, locals can only play at least five tournaments.
This year alone there have been only four tournaments that the BTA hosted; among them are the Africa Juniors Championships, John Pickles Challenge and the just ended Botswana Open.
This, according to Serufho, is not enough to prepare players for international games such as the All Africa Games.
“If we seriously want to win medals, we have to organise as many tournaments as possible. It is of great essence that we have at least three tournaments every school break,” he said.
Serufho said they have also decided to shift their attention from players who are already over 16 years and pump more in the under 12.
“We believe that if an 18 year old player is till struggling to be in the top 10 in Southern Africa, we will never be able to make him a world class athlete; that is why we need to concentrate on the young ones who still have age on their side,” explained Serufho.
Complacency was also pointed out as a contributing factor in the team’s poor showing. Serufho said due to a small pool of players some players are not trying hard, since they are assured selection to the national team.
The BTA PRO, however, said the results were not that bad since Botswana did not field their best team.
“Lesotho fielded a team that represented them in Algeria in the All Africa Games and none of our players had that experience. Had we brought our best players who are currently in the US, we could have won the Botswana Open. The likes of Tapiwa Marobela could have excelled,” he said.
Serufho said the fact that the likes of Matshidiso Malope and Thabiso Mabaka are sitting for their Form five examinations could have had an effect on their game.