'A practical way to promote the sport would be having public courts in corporation grounds'
Even as the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) unveiled a ten-week calendar of ITF (International Tennis Federation) Futures events in the State, Transport Minister and KSLTA vice-president R. Ashok came up with an ambitious agenda.
He said that the State government would introduce tennis in schools and have around 3,000 children trained in the game over a year.
Of them, 15 would be picked and coached to play State and national tournaments, he said.
Though Mr. Ashok's vision is laudable, one needs to look at the practical difficulties in implementing this scheme.
The biggest challenge is the dearth of trained coaches to handle such a programme. Most of the available coaches are overworked in their respective academies and centres and it would be tough for them to take up additional responsibility.
Second, there are not many courts for schoolchildren to train in. The most affordable training centre in the city is SLTA, which simply cannot handle a huge turnout.
Children in many schools are not exposed to Tennis as a sport, with most of them lacking even general physical education infrastructure or trainers, let alone for specific games.
A practical way to promote the sport would be having public courts in select centres.
Such a proposal was mooted by KSLTA secretary C.S. Sunder Raju a few years ago.
It envisaged building public courts in a portion of corporation grounds and schools and providing them with coaches.
The public and children could use them at a nominal fee and their maintenance would be the responsibility of local residential communities or welfare associations.
After all, children learn cricket by playing its gully version.
Grand Slam champions Venus and Serena Williams had their initiation into the sport on public courts.
The plan fell through as many city councillors were averse to the idea of parting with prime space in their wards for such courts.
Mini tennis, which needs no big facilities and uses soft balls and makeshift mini courts, was in vogue till a few years ago and is still popular at a few training centres.
To make this a widespread public initiative, lot of manpower and trainers with sound knowledge of the concept, are required.
Though tennis is often viewed as an elitist sport, there is a keen interest in the game among youngsters.
They seem to have been inspired by the success of stars such as Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.
This is reflected in the huge number of entries for junior tournaments in the States, where even a qualifying draw attracts over 150 players.
It is important that such an interest is channelled properly through sustained efforts to develop the game.
Keywords: ITF Futures tennis