In November and December 2010 Dan James visited the Silver Fund projects in Kenya and Tanzania to witness the rapid progress that each country has made following their inclusion in the scheme. He was joined on his trip by world ranked No.2 woman Jiske Griffioen from the Netherlands, who helped to run clinics for the local players.
James was returning to Tanzania for the first time since 2007 and was impressed by the increased level of organisation found within the Tanzanian Paralympic Committee. Grassroots work has been occurring at schools and in particular at two special needs schools in Dar Es Salaam, one each for boys and girls.
With growing numbers of dedicated local players competitive tennis is on the rise paving the way for many of them to progress and compete on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour or evolve into coaches and administrators. This stage of development is key as it creates a cycle of players passing on their knowledge and enthusiasm to the next generation.
Griffioean and James were highly encouraged by each of the local sites they visited while in Kenya, centring on the coastal city of Mombasa. There were strong numbers of players, excellent coaching and adequate courts to play on with James proclaiming that “this could be one of the biggest potential Silver Fund Programs that I have been a part of”.
There was a notable commitment to the future of wheelchair tennis in the country. At Kenyatta University two staff members, George and Peter, are dedicated to Paralympic Sport and specifically wheelchair tennis. They found this attitude was matched by the ITF Coach in Mombasa, Lawrence Karanja. In Nairobi, Dr Elizabeth Odera hosts training where athletes are fully catered for.
The clinics in both countries were well attended and Griffioen’s expert guidance enabled rapid development of those players who were able to be present for multiple sessions. With a consistent program of good coaching it could be just a matter of time before both Kenya and Tanzania produce world standard players.