ITF Celebrates 100 Years Of Excellence: Rethinking Tennis Development Funding In Africa

Dear Mr. Francesco Ricci Bitti, President, International Tennis Federation

The purpose of this open letter is to draw your attention to Tennis Africa, particularly with respect to Nigeria, as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) celebrates 100 years of service to the global community. Our objective is to get ITF to re-examine how tennis development funds are disbursed to tennis federations in Africa, with the hope that non-profit organizations can qualify for tennis development funds and grants.

Tennis Federations in Africa continue to face difficult challenges in this century. Some of the challenges include lacking the funds and human resources needed to promote and grow the game at the grassroots level, introduce tennis in schools, train coaches, and organize adequate junior tournaments locally and nationally.

But the record shows that for the past 50 years the ITF has contributed significantly to tennis development in Africa, particularly in South Africa and Nigeria. Many players in Africa, including myself, have benefitted greatly from ITF tennis development programs. Many of us are contributing members of our communities as teachers, coaches, and college professors. Traditionally, ITF has had a strong relationship with Tennis Federations around the world and we want to recognize that at the time of this centennial celebration. For example, the Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) has made tremendous improvements and made gains in international competitions in the last 50 years. However, the next 50 years is crucial for tennis development in Africa.

In July 2005, the Nigerian tennis community in the United States discussed and reassessed the state of tennis in Nigeria and developed a Roadmap for Junior Tennis Development. In 2008, the Nigerian Tennis Foundation-USA (NTF-USA) was incorporated in the state of Florida. In 2009, the junior development plan was submitted to Sani Ndanusa, the president of the Nigerian Tennis Federation (NTF) for review and endorsement. In 2011, Ndanusa endorsed the plan and promised to support the Foundation. Nigerian Tennis Foundation-USA is a not-for-profit service organization designed to promote and develop grassroots and junior tennis in Nigeria. NTF-USA is committed to the development of grassroots tennis in schools and tennis academies. This is consistent with the ITF’s School Tennis Initiative, Performance Tennis Initiative, and Player Development Programme. The NTF proposes to utilize the ITF Mini-Tennis format as the framework for the transformation of tennis in Nigeria. Tennis organizations such as the Nigerian Tennis Coaches Association (NTCA), United States Professional Coaches Association Nigeria (USPTAN), and Professional Tennis Registry Nigeria (PTRN) have been invited to partner with the NTF-USA.

Nigerian Tennis Foundation-USA will continue to work with the Nigerian Tennis Federation to seek external funding through the ITF/GSDF Player Development Fund. We will also appeal to the Roger Federer Foundation, Rafael Nadal Foundation, Venus and Serena Foundation, Graf and Agassi Foundation, and other tennis related sports and education foundations in Nigeria and around the world.

In short, NTF-SA has developed a 10-Year Tennis Development plan. We will adopt a management mythology that invokes the philosophy of sustainable and continuous improvement of tennis in Nigeria at the grassroots level. We will reaffirm our positions to all stakeholders, international (CAT and ITF) and local tennis governing bodies (Nigeria Tennis Federation and Tennis Associations) and the Nigerian Government alike, that we intend to build a pro-Nigerian organization that will be accountable for the contributions and successes of tennis players every year in the country.

We have identified some of the elements that have led to the collapsing of tennis in Nigeria and have begun the process of weeding out these bad elements one at a time. And in the new paradigm shift we will monitor progress consistently, assess the needs and improvement curve incrementally, and design a program to help us control costs of compliance and implementation.

We will accomplish these goals and objectives together, grounded in a commitment and determination not to do business as usual. Mr. Ricci, we are seeking an intervention by way of reviewing the existing ITF policy regarding assistance to non-government agencies supporting tennis development at the grassroots level in Africa.

Mr. Dave Miley, the Director of Tennis Development and Mr. Amine Ben Makhlouf, the Director of Development for West and Central Africa will be contacted as a follow-up. In the meantime, I can be reached at aabdul01@yahoo.com or by phone 1-305-331-8083.

Written by
Sadiq A. Abdullahi
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