The internationally acclaimed tennis coach Maria-Jose Pons Llorca Pons, who is currently in the country conducting coaching clinics, says there is promising talent in Botswana.
Talking on the side lines of a High performance tennis camp in Gaborone this week Pons said the level of tennis standards locally may be low as compared to other countries but there is a lot of potential in young players here.
The former Spanish number 2 ranked tennis player however said a lot still needs to be done to get these young players to par with the world standards. She pointed that lack of game time is a major setback in Botswana. “The children here have a lot of passion to play and learn more. I am impressed by how some of them play but lack of more competitive tournaments for them is a problem. To get experience and exposure they have to play competitive games all the time,” Pons said.
Pons is in Botswana at the invitation of the Francistown School of Tennis, which is solely focussed on developing tennis at grassroots level. The Spaniard applauded the efforts of the Francistown School of Tennis, saying it is good to work with children while they are still young because they learn quickly.
“The Francistown School of Tennis is doing a great job and great results will be realised in future so they should continue this,” she said. Pons, however, said one school of tennis is not enough for the whole country. “For better results there should be more institutions like this one to reach more players. If this can happen tennis will grow in Botswana because of the potential that is here.” she added.
The other thing that Jose identified is the level of coaching in Botswana which she says is still low. She said to have good young players, there should be good coaches. “Playing tennis is not all about hitting the ball but also involves techniques and strategies. Coaches should be at a higher coaching level to better transfer the skills to the kids.”
While in the country Pons also had the chance to train some coaches during the high performance camps. The Director of Francistown School of Tennis Dominique Raguin indicated that six coaches had the opportunity to work with former three times French Open champion. Raguin said it was a successful camp they had with Pons because the coaches have learnt a lot from her.
“We invited the coach here because we wanted to give the coaches and players the exposure to learn from the legends,” explained Raguin. According to him, most coaches in the region do not have training on coaching at high performance centres as a result they wanted to expose local coaches to this training.
One of the coaches that worked with the Spaniard, Thabo Nokane confirmed that he has learnt a lot from her. Nokane said the coach taught him new techniques of tennis and how to conduct himself as a coach. “I learnt a lot of things from her and wish that even Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) should sometimes call coaches such as her to come and work with us,” said the youthful coach.
Following a successful high performance tennis camp in Francistown and Gaborone Raguin pointed out that they are planning to conduct similar camps every year. He said with the help of sponsors they are looking at calling the international coach to Botswana every year for six-week high performance training for the young players. “We are also planning on getting a fulltime international coach at the school to work with the kids on a daily basis. I am hopeful that we will get sponsors to make this happen,” added Raguin.
Since its inception, the Francistown School of Tennis has been sponsored by the Raguin family. However, in some occasions the Francistown business community lend a hand to the family. Companies such as Haskins, Wheels Motor Spares, Impex, Motor Holdings and Willy Kathurima associates have sponsored the school. Raguin also called on government to come on board and help them to develop sport in the country for better results.