NAIROBI, Kenya, June 6 – Kenya’s Davis Cup Coach, Rosemary Owino is a woman on a mission. Her remarks are right on the button.
She is advocating for more tennis courts to be built across the country to enable the sport grow and yield positive results.
“Building public tennis courts is a worthy investment for posterity as the future of upcoming tennis players is dependent on infrastructure, motivation and quality of coaching. This means kids will spend more time honing their skills at a tender age and benefit from sports. Sports is education beyond the classroom. A lot is learnt in play in terms of discipline, and time keeping,” Owino, who is an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Travelling coach, told Capital Sport.
After ruffling feathers in tennis circles in Kenya for a while, Owino, who is also one of the few female Davis Cup captains in the World opines that the COVID-19 pandemic should be an eye opener to the government and corporate world in regards to spreading tennis courts spread across the estates.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures. Maybe a time like this makes us feel like engaging the government to consider building public tennis courts in estates like in Umoja or we need to solicit for corporate support to build one in a place like Kibra. This will enable easy access for underprivileged people who can’t access facilities in private members clubs,” Owino said.
As local stakeholders mull over a realistic resumption plan, Owino who is a Sports Personality of the Year Award (SOYA) winning Coach, hopes tennis (being a non-contact sport) will be given the green light to resume action just as golf did with a raft of measures.
“Tennis is a sport which embraces the spirit of social distancing as we are positioned more than the one-and-half metres apart. We never get to meet or share anything apart from the ball flying from one end of the court to the next which we don’t necessarily need to touch. You pick it up with your feet you feed it in and you play tennis and its great exercise, so it’s the same as self- caddied golf,” Owino, who is also a General High Performance Sports mentor, offered.
The emergence of young and talented players, the likes of Angela Okutoyi and Albert Njogu from ITF junior circuits held annually in the country have spiced up the sport immensely.
“Consistency and proper structures will definitely propel Kenya at par with other powerhouse tennis playing nations. We don’t have many tennis courts in Kenya. Facilities are key to building the sport. Currently, we are relying on sports clubs to train and with the evolving COVID-19 situation, most of these clubs are closed so players cannot access them with their movement restricted,” Owino, who savors honors in sports science from University of Pretoria underscored.
However, the coach who is an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Travelling coach, believes all is not lost in Kenya. She’s calling for concerted efforts from all stakeholders.
“The secret to stay at the top level is to retain the people that are working a chance to show them (players) the right direction and see them succeed in the next 10 years, we have potential to do better, with less breaks we are able to achieve because we have the right kind of players and conducive weather.”
On the effects of Coronavirus, the Coach reckons the tennis world is hard hit as well but looks the pandemic on a positive note.
“The whole of the tennis ecosystem is at standstill from coaches, players, officials, federation, parents. A lot has changed, we have stopped what we used to do like showing up for lessons, coaching, group lessons and school programs,” Owino stated.
She added; “However, the pandemic has taught us how to do things differently. We have learnt how to do online coaching. Some things have gone virtual nowadays. Right now, it could have been the time of Davis Cup there after we don’t have direct contact with the payers because they go back to their coaches. The national coach is keeping in touch with national team payers, sending them programs online.”
Kenya was set to host the women’s International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour in October this year.
The Tour that was scheduled to be hosted in the country for the second time running was to feature 20 teams with Kenya Open Champion Angela Okutoyi set to lead the home team.
-Speaking on Davis Cup season-
During this season’s Davis Cup, Kenya’s hopes of featuring in the Euro/Africa Group II tournament were shattered after they lost two of their decisive rubbers to Indonesia in the best-of-five Euro/Africa Group II playoffs.
Kenya’s duo of Ismael Changawa and Ibrahim Kibet lost 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 to Christopher Rungkat and David Susanto of Indonesia bringing their lost rubbers to four from the best-of-five contest in their doubles match.
Kevin Cheruiyot lost 6-4, 6-2 to Trismuwantara Gunawan of Indonesia, which sealed the team’s drop back to the Davis Cup Africa Zone Group III.
19-year-old Sheil Kotecha fell 6-1, 6-2 to Indonesia’s Rungkat while 23-year-old Changawa lost 6-2, 6-4 to Susanto.
“We lost at the stage we competed in, so we are coming back to group three to compete again Only one person goes to group two and one person comes back to group three, but we are coming down better. We have learnt a lot from the level that we experienced and played, the players now come back thinking differently,” said Owino.
“The double match in Indonesia, at the end of it I was sad we lost but I was really motivated, it was a three-set match 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, that’s something. The match was on another level, the boys really played good tennis, the focus, intensity, hunger, drive, energy… I was impressed,” she revealed.
“The period leading to the playoffs, things were tough, but we pulled through. But I say it was learning moments.”
“I urge aspiring players to use every moment to learn and grow and try to be better, have goals, be patient when you a working towards goals set and understand that you will find difficulties. The challenges should be a reason to double up and work harder and not give up. Find the right people to hang around with and learn from them. Have a mentor because this gives one a right to dream,” concluded Owino, who loves reading about sports stories.