Rwanda’s Tennis Federation has announced a five-year strategic plan with several innovations including school outreaches and inter-club Tennis competitions. Turning Rwanda into a host country for high profile Tennis competitions is also high on the agenda to ensure the game grows to see its former glory days. This broad plan starts this year.
The top Tennis administration has said that they’re currently considering investment in grassroots campaign to ensure they harness young talents in a drive to develop professional tennis players who’ll make the game shine again.
Theoneste Karenzi the new President of the Federation told Sports Reporter Jejje Muhinde that after he’d successful made a back summersault last year into the currently lukewarm Federation that he’d shortly headed back in 2012, he’s now settling on a countrywide talents search that will involve outreaches in Primary schools alongside enhancing capacity of the Tennis coaches. Below are the excerpts.
Q: Sir, you once held this post. What has inspired you to make a comeback?
A: True. I had been elected President of the Tennis Federation in 2012 and served for one year before the government entrusted with other duties which precipitated my early resignation for I could not occupy two offices at ago.
I considered returning to Tennis after a while because I love this game and sports in general. Tennis is a sports I can devote my energy to make sure it develops. I love it and hold strong conviction my contribution can take it to greater heights.
Q: What are the major reforms that you intend to introduce during your second time in the office?
A: There’re four priority programmes that have to be considered. We’ve to do everything possible, which we’re already doing to identify talents from the grassroots level with a focus on Primary school children. Our mission is to ensure we develop the top tennis professional players in the country.
Well, you can only do that by identifying tennis talents in young children at an early stage. We’ve some mature and good professional tennis players, but for sustainability of high standards, we’ve to consider the strategy of starting from the grassroots.
The second priority is to enhance our coaches through training so that they’re able develop the players to match international standards. Most of these professional tennis players that you admire have been trained by highly qualified coaches.
Hence, we have a challenge of sourcing a qualified technical director who will train the national teams, identify talents along training coaches.
Currently, we’ve four major tennis tournaments – Kwibuka, Rwanda Open, Heroes and Agaciro.
Q: Sir, what else should the Tennis fans and Rwandans in general expect this year?
A: Yes, thank you for that question Jejje. There is a plan in the pipeline to introduce annual inter-club tennis competitions.
Besides, we’re working around the clock to turn Rwanda into a regional destination for high profile Tennis competitions that can host the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and other international Tennis events.
We plan to engage the Ministry of Sports on the matter to see if we can have a convergence of interest. There’re several benefits that come along with such development like sports tourism and creation of new social and political relations.
Q: Can you please throw more light on that?
A: There’re huge economic benefits which include transforming surroundings of Amahoro National Stadium into a modern urban sports area with tennis courts. And, we envisage a positive impact on businesses, especially the hospitality sector.
Q: Recently the government introduced budget cuts in the sports sector effective this fiscal year, with the tennis body being one of the affected federations, how are you coping with that challenge? What impact will it have on the quest to produce the next generation of professional stars in Rwanda?
A: With the few resources everything is possible given the will and commitment. That’s my philosophy. Secondly, we’ve to capitalize on homegrown solutions to address financial challenges, and we considering the issue of having a self-sustaining federation. Indeed, the ministry is overwhelmed. It’s for policy. Though we need to be supported financially but we appreciate the fact that the line ministry cannot solve all the challenges.
You cannot expect to be sponsored the whole budget, how many federations do we have in this country, you cannot have a budget for every federation, but we’ve also to be innovative by engaging other stakeholders and private sector.
Q: Tells us about your partnerships with other stakeholders?
A: There’s tangible progress speaks volumes of our sustainable partnerships and we’re able to implement major programmes like junior initiative.
Thanks to the support from the Ministry of Sports with which we shall construct two tennis courts.
Q: Tennis had gained massive popularity in Rwanda in the past. what’s being done to regain popularity?
A: Well, We’ve to do whatever we can. Our strategy is to build a brand that is attractive, that is why our efforts are centered on building a foundation with an attractive atmosphere and environment where the sport can market itself.
Q: Recently Maria Sharapova visited Rwanda. How did RTF benefit from her visit?
A: True, she visited Rwanda but with a tight programme. Our efforts to contact her were futile. These are professionals with agents that act as go-betweens.
Nevertheless, we discussed with Rwanda Development Board the issue of having Tennis legends visit Rwanda in the future through Kwita-Izina event. It’s in the pipeline and it’s possible.