In a big step towards boosting grassroots tennis development in provinces, a first of its kind training camp was held at Siem Reap’s Svaydongkum primary school last week, opening up an avenue for children from underprivileged communities to learn the game.
The five-day camp, which concluded on Friday, was conducted by head coach Scott Windus, who came to Cambodia two years ago pursuing social work in the province through an Australian organisation and has been teaching the sport as part of Tennis Cambodia’s Schools Tennis Initiative (STI) introduced nearly a year ago.
The camp was split into two sessions – mornings for the younger lot and afternoons set apart for the older ones. Each class was enthusiastically attended by 30 participants on average with the focus each day on one particular aspect of the game.
After learning basics in forehands, backhands, volleys and serves during the first four-days, the trainees ended up putting the lessons they had learned to test in a competition on the final day.
While most of the participants were from the Svaydongkum school, a bunch of kids from Sala Roub Roum centre for the underprivileged situated in a nearby village, joined in for their first real fling with tennis training.
One tiny girl who caught most attention was Liza from Deat Sin Kan D’boug, a hamlet of poor housing conditions not far from the centre. What makes Liza’s story inspirational is the fact that the roof of her home was blown away recently in a storm that also caused extensive damage to their belongings.
Windus and his 24-year-old assistant coach Doan Soun go out to this hamlet to teach for two hours every Saturday, followed by two more hours at Sala Roub Roum.
“We are in the business of changing lives through tennis. I greatly admire the courage of girls like Liza and the dedicated work our coaches are doing to shape the futures of these youngsters,” Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit told the Post yesterday.
“Scott Windus has been very good at what he does. He and his assistants are doing a great job for us. I am pleased that so much of progress has been made in Siem Reap since we began the STI last year,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tennis Cambodia and the Grand Soluxe Angkor Palace Resort and Spa are currently holding discussions over a partnership to promote private and group lessons apart from junior programs.
“The Grand Soluxe has two beautiful tennis courts, and if we do come to an agreement with them and start some kind of a program, our opportunities are endless,” Windus told the Post.
“We can start to train more coaches like Soun, and with more coaches we can then approach more government and private schools, and very importantly we can begin to become more sustainable.”
Tennis Cambodia’s head of junior development Mam Phalkun, who was in Siem Reap for the last two days of the camp, noted it was of great significance that there were as many girls as boys at the inaugural training camp.
“This is really rare. The STI and very soon the Junior Tennis Initiative is a great way forward for these girls,” he said.
“We are excited to see how this aspect of tennis in Siem Reap and this aspect of society in general develops over time.
“We sincerely thank Cambodia Airports and Vittel for supporting our STI program,” added Mam Phalkun, who has been part of Cambodia’s Davis Cup team for the last two years.
Tennis 10s festival
The fourth edition of the Tennis 10s festival was held at the National Training Center last Friday. This is a major grassroots development program initiated by the International Tennis Federation to spot and nurture young talent.
Tennis Cambodia holds these festivals a week before every national junior tournament.