MASVINGO Province has never been a tennis stronghold but things have been changing in recent years.
The elitist tag that shackled the sport for years is slowly shedding off and the Masvingo Tennis Board (MTB) has decided to take the game beyond its urban boundaries.
With a limited number of resources, few tennis facilities and equipment, let alone human resources in terms of coaching staff, it was always going to be difficult to break new ground with such an elitist sport.
In an interview with Standardsport, the MTB chairman John Munhukwa said the board had started hosting coaching clinics to empower and equip teachers in districts of Masvingo where training of basic tennis skills was being done.
“What we have decided to do as the MTB is to increase the number of our affiliates and spread tennis beyond the urban areas in this province. For years, tennis had remained an elitist sport with just a few schools taking the sport seriously in Masvingo, but it’s now there in the high-density suburbs, which is very pleasing,” he said.
“We started by approaching the provincial education officer with a proposal to include tennis as one of the main sports in the school curriculum and to have teachers teach tennis basics during physical education periods. We are convinced that this way, tennis can grow in leaps and bounds in the province,” Munhukwa added.
While Kyle College and Victoria High School are traditional tennis-playing schools, it is interesting to note that the sport has been well-received in schools such as Hellen McGee, Chikato, Mushagashe and Mucheke, among many others.
Structures that have been established in the urban areas now shift focus to rural areas where many young schoolchildren have never been in contact with the sport called tennis in their lives. Some pupils may not even have set sight on a tennis ball in their entire lives.
MTB has already conducted a coaching clinic for teachers in two of the seven districts, namely Masvingo urban and Gutu, while preparations have gathered momentum to hold two more in Chivi and Zaka this year.
Munhukwa said his board would be looking at improving the number of tennis tournaments played in the province throughout the year.
“Currently, we don’t have many local tournaments apart from the Masvingo one and two other national tournaments and we are obviously looking to increase the number of these events so that players can prepare adequately for bigger competitions outside the province,” he said.
He added that they were engaging stakeholders with the idea of establishing a provincial schools tennis league for both primary and secondary schools to run throughout the year.
The provincial tennis leadership has identified some mission schools in the province such as Deure in Gutu where there are tennis facilities lying idle and which could be refurbished and shared in the district until such a time other schools are able to construct their own.
Apart from Munashe Makumi — who is on a tennis scholarship in the United States of America — Masvingo is yet to produce another big name in the sport. Provincial coach Goodwell Samson, however, says he believes it is only a matter of time, especially considering the talent brimming in the current crop of junior players.
“There is no doubt we have so much talent here, considering that we have about 15 junior players who are ranked nationally. If this group is well looked after or at least if some of them get sponsorship, I foresee star players with a capacity to compete on the international stage emerging,” Samson said.
Some of the players with a national ranking include Ibrahim Wachi, Strive Bosha, Anthony Mazvimba, Tadios Kakonga, Ednar Mhango, Tanatswa Tanyongana, Deborah Mhizha, Cloe Chiweshe Davis and Prince Madzore.
Samson said the province was looking to partner with a Cyprus university to award scholarships to some of the athletes who would have excelled in the sport — a development that could see a good number getting an opportunity to take tennis to professional levels.