lanre Aminu is a brand communication expert and marketing practitioner, whose love for tennis spurred him to contest for the President of Estate Lawn Tennis Club, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, a post he has just relinquished after serving a two-term tenure. The 57-year old veteran tennis player in this interview with Saturday Sunsports spoke on the development of tennis and its diminishing returns at all levels in Nigeria. Excerpts:
What’s your assessment of tennis development and rating of players?
Well I will say it’s on a slow pace, but improving in view of the provision of facilities in major sports clubs across Nigeria. However, the dearth of facilities in many schools and communities has forced many players to abandon tennis for other sections in many clubs. I will say the infrastructure development, which was initiated during my tenure at Estate Tennis Club has yielded positive results among our members who are steadily growing their skills in the racquet game. However, for the youth in Jakande Estate, we have recorded tremendous success through the foundation of Youth Academy. We have spent a lot of resources and expended capital budget to set a solid foundation for the young players, who were drawn from various schools in the estate.
What is the club’s motive for setting-up Youth Sports Development Project?
Thank you. It was apparent that we could not afford to create a vacuum, as our players grow older and become veterans and play for leisure. Consequently, as they lose form and spark during training for competitive championships, we had to get our youth on courts and employed a professional coach to handle them from basic. Frankly speaking, the gains we are not getting from veteran players, the young talents have been performing wonderfully by showing great commitment to training mostly in the evenings and weekends.
What is the standard of players at the national level?
I will say it is fast declining in view of the lack of sponsors and fabulous incentives to motivate the young players from the various states by the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF). For example, many state sports councils are finding it difficult to pay salaries, organize tournaments and attract competent coaches due to financial meltdowns, which have forced many Nigerian players to look elsewhere for succour. The result has led to preponderance of interest and bias by many corporate sponsors embracing football at the expense of lesser sports, including tennis. When was the last time you had about Nduka Odizor, Tony Umoh and Zodik Abdullahi talking tennis and mentoring our youths at international circuits but I believe we could still produce great players and international stars, who can do the nation proud at prestigious tennis tournaments in Europe and America including the Olympic games. The attitude of our sports administrator corporate sponsors and philanthropists should be tuned towards promoting tennis and other sports.
What is the summer tennis classic project all about?
We organize summer youth clinic during the long summer holiday for primary and secondary students in the estate and its environs to take part in the various sports activities as part of effort by our club to catch them young and to give hope and support the growth of estate community through sports and youth development initiatives. Thus, this is our own contribution to take the youths away from the street and curbing social vices currently plaguing our society. A total number of 212 children drawn from various schools participated in the last summer tennis classic projects.
There are talents raring to go for goals all over the place, but there is lack of sponsorship, coaching and competitions to boost the technical knowledge and expose tennis players as future champions. This is the crux of the matter facing us in the club that led us to concentrate on developing the game of tennis, thereby mitigating youth restiveness and despondency.