HMT’s Initiative takes tennis to grassroots

Shelly Guni

Tennis, much like golf, is not a sport that is easy to make a breakthrough.
The financial requirements can prevent large portions of the community from enjoying the game.

The Harare Metropolitan Tennis Board (HMT) hopes to change that.

The Board has actually hit the ground running with a Community Tennis Initiative programme which is aimed at benefiting at least three hundred underprivileged children from the selected communities.

The initiative took off in February and the HMT development director Linsent Chitiyo is happy with the response so far.

In an interview with Review and Mail, Chitiyo said “the board is there to nurture talent, and create the best pathway for each athlete to explore their potential.

“Usually it requires money and usually it requires going to a club,” Chitiyo said. “What we do is offer the opportunity to do it without either of those things.”
“The community initiative program is being run by Harare Metropolitan Tennis Board. It’s not an individual thing.”
And while the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc across the globe, for children in Glennorah, Chitungwiza, Highfield, Dzivarasekwa, Warren Park, Glenview, Mabvuku it came as a blessing in disguise.
“We started the community tennis initiative because of the covid-19 pandemic restrictions that we had. Schools were closed, there were no activities anywhere so we had to start from somewhere.
“And starting from our communities we had a lot of kids within our communities who were just idle.
“There are no activities for them and having an understanding of what tennis can do to our society, we started these initiatives so that we can take these kids off the street and keep them occupied but under a strict covid-19 regulation where we have used our supervisory role to really monitor the protocols that they are being followed.
“We made sure that we have at least 30 kids per centre, we are looking at communities where they don’t have the privilege of having a tennis court right next or opposite your house or within your premises.
“So by virtue of that we then started with 30 players in seven centres that we had targeted before approaching our parent ministry and our stakeholders,” he says.
Development Centres are created in most communities and each centre will have a deliverer who oversees the players and trains them. Every fortnight these players will train at a Sports Club that will be twinned with them.
“We take kids to those centres after every two weeks and this creates a cohesion between a community and sports club. Indirectly it is like a sports club adopting a community,” Chitiyo says.
The setting of centres was the first phase, the board now set the focus on the next phase which will see them hosting tournaments for the community.
The tournament will help them to select players who will make up the provincial squad for Harare.
“We have given these ones a privilege. There are other players in this age group that are already competing and have international or local rankings points whom we want to fuse with these from the community.
“We want to create our player base so our target base was to build a player base of three hundred players. Once we have established a target base, we then select our provincial squad.”
Chitiyo described why they are focusing on the 9-11 age group.
“The reason why we want 9-11 years is that we have got a skills market deficit because of covid-19 from 2019 to 2022.
“We have got the basic fundamentals, the pathways. All the technical skills are built before 12 years. After 12 years we are now looking at developing power on the same skills. From 16 years going up we are now looking at the mental attitude of the players,” he says.
Chitiyo said the program is making a difference in the lives of the children.
“For many of the kids, this is a chance for them to have success in their day.
“We are there to create the pathway and create the signage for you to grow. If you have what it takes, the systems are there and everything is accountable.
“We are also accountable to our own system, the stakeholders and the communities that we survive in, we also have the parent ministry that also supports us.
“We also want to create the high performance kids that will also feed into the current PPP system that is currently being run by our ministry. We want to be an active player within the systems.”
Chiyiyo is however, calling for corporates and well-wishers to come on board and support their initiative.
“Currently, we are having transport challenges. We have to ferry kids to and fro their centres and the board has been catering for that. But we would want a system which we know will not inconvenience the program,” he said.

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