‘I have a plan to develop tennis’

‘I have a plan to develop tennis’

MASERU – Lesotho is blessed with an abundance of talent when it comes to tennis but its players are hampered by a lack of regular tournaments to play in.
These are the words of Lesotho international coach Mojalefa Mothibe who is based at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) High Performance Tennis Centre in Casablanca, Morocco.
Mothibe left Lesotho in January to take up the job at the ITF centre which is one of two in Africa.
Like its counterpart in Kenya, the facility in Casablanca houses the continent’s most promising tennis players who attend on a part-time or full-time residential basis and, in some cases, are given Olympic Solidarity scholarships.

Mothibe coaches the Under-16 age group and is in Lesotho for a short period before returning to Morocco on September 10.
Speaking to thepost yesterday at the national tennis courts in Maseru, Mothibe said despite the talent Lesotho possesses, it is not easy to monitor the growth or improvement of young players if they are not playing regularly and this is a major disadvantage facing local tennis players.
thepost: How would you rate tennis in Lesotho as compared to other African countries?

Mothibe: I am in Morocco so I will talk about tennis in that country. They have different programmes compared to us here at home.
Perhaps the difference could be money but it really isn’t that much.
The big difference is tennis players in Morocco know that they have to play at least 12 (international) tournaments in a year, not less than that.
But here it’s different, you will find that a child is playing two tournaments in a year and they are far apart.

For example, they will play one tournament in January and the following one in May, then they will play again next year in January.
In that case it is very difficult to see the improvement if a player is playing in two tournaments that are so far apart. In Morocco it’s different.
Another thing is how they group children. They group them based on their level and style of play.

Here you will find that we have two players who are Under-16 and are very good but they are grouped with others who are not as good as those two.
So what happens is that the good players find it very difficult to improve if there is no one to compete against.
When you teach a player certain things, he can’t get everything at once, you have to watch him play and make mistakes and then come back fix where he went wrong.
But it shouldn’t take a long time; he needs to be back competing again, say in three weeks, to see if he is improving.

Here it’s different because a player takes months to go back to a tournament, (and) when he goes back it’s the same as starting all over again.
A player learns a lot from tournaments, that experience is important.

When you go to (international) tournaments, you will realise that our player is actually good or even better than his opponent but he is making a lot of mistakes while his opponent is experienced and knows what to do and not do.
We have to take our players to (international) tournaments, let them learn.

Do we have enough coaches here at home to train players in a correct way?

We don’t have coaches here at home.
First of all, we don’t have tennis clubs, we only have the national tennis courts and we do not have competition.
These kids know that even if they miss training for a week, they can still beat so and so.

But if we had clubs all over the country, say one in Morija, someone who is here (in Maseru) doesn’t know what someone in Morija is doing and it forces them to work hard.
Then we can have a national tournament where we rank the players so that when it’s time for (international) tournaments we can just look at our rankings (to pick national teams).
It will also help that even if we cannot take the players to tournaments outside the country, then they can still compete against each other.
When we have clubs then we can have lot of coaches.

What is your plan to help grow tennis in Lesotho?

I already have a plan. I have connections where I am right now.
What I want is to see tennis grow and help kids here because they can make a living through this sport and go to school.
The kids we have at the centre (in Morocco), when they are done with school they go to America.

I can help our players to go to the camps in Morocco, if their parents are able to afford it.
I am already working with parents whose children play tennis; we already have three Basotho in America.
It is very easy to go to America, but you cannot go to college (in the US) without (international ITF) rankings.

Luciah Phahla

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