There is growing interest among people living with disabilities
Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) hosted a wheelchair tennis training camp in Gaborone over the weekend as a part of its efforts to revive the wheelchair game following years of slow progress. The camp was conducted by International Tennis Federation (ITF) expert, Patrick Selepe.
The president of BTA, Oaitse Thipe, told Gazette Sport that they have had wheelchair tennis programmes over the years but they collapsed due to non-participation of coaches and lack of interest from clubs.
“It was not a launch of the wheelchair game,” he said. “We have had programmes before but they collapsed because of non-participation of coaches and clubs being uninterested.” Thipe added that the plan is to roll it out to other places across the country and that they have already reached out to clubs around the country for the purpose.
“We will donate wheelchairs we are going to those in need of them so that the coaches may start,” he said. “The plan is that once the programmes are underway, the clubs will start competing but is vital to first establish structures at club level.
“Right now we have coaches of different clubs doing regular tennis but we need to can get them to do wheelchair tennis. We are eager to organise competitions and even to start competing internationally.”
He added that they aim to participate in the Olympics and have had a good number of enquiries about revival of wheelchair tennis because there is growing interest in the game among people living with disabilities.
“That is why we are hard at work to ensure that we have everything set and ready to have large numbers coming through,” Thipe said.
“Challenges have always been there and challenges will always be there but ought to find a way to revive structures across the country so that our children can learn the game and represent us internationally.”
He used the opportunity to appeal to the business community for assistance in order to build and strengthen wheelchair tennis.
Wheelchair tennis was launched in 2015 has always encouraged young people living with disabilities to take part in the sporting code.
Zimbabwe and Nigeria
According to ITF expert Patrick Selepe, countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria are active in wheelchair tennis but have not yet reached South Africa’s level in the game. He added that reviving wheelchair tennis in Botswana would help the country earn points and improve its global rankings in the sport