Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto recently hosted the internationally acclaimed fourth Junior Tennis Initiative (JTI) workshop from 28-31 January 2014.
The workshop was specifically organized for the National JTI Coordinators and their supporting coaches from within the Southern African region.
Hosted by Tennis South Africa, the workshop welcomed 17 coaches, representing 11 nations from across the Southern African region. These included at least one representative from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The workshop follows three previously held in East Africa, the Caribbean and in West Africa, with the purpose to further educate the National JTI Coordinators and their supporting coaches in those nations engaged in the delivery of 14-and-under national junior development programmes around the world.
ITF Development Officer for the Southern African region, said: "The JTI is the most fundamental programme for nations to develop their national 14-and-under players in the Southern African region. This week's workshop has been extremely effective in educating the national JTI coordinators and providing them new knowledge and the new skills to make a considerable impact within their respective programmes."
Funded by the ITF, the workshop was delivered by ITF experts Tim Jones and Riaan Kruger during the four-day gathering at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Academy.
Sessions covered comprised of how to deliver simple competition formats and activity progressions for the development of the grassroots Tennis10s programmes in schools and clubs, talent identification and high performance based training for the most talented 12/14-and-under performance players, and advice on how to improve administration skills off court and generate further income to support the national programmes.
A specific physical conditioning session was conducted by tennis expert Andre de Beer from University of Pretoria, who took the coaches and some of the players from the Arthur Ashe Centre through an intensive and thorough on-court circuit of activities.
The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre was opened in 1974 following a donation from former three-time Men's Grand Slam Champion Arthur Ashe. Following Apartheid riots in 1976 the centre was vandalised, and new ownership and a completed rebuild in 1986, further vandalism occurred months later due to further rioting in the South African township.
It was not until 2004 that the City of Johannesburg took over responsibility for the running of the centre and made it a focal point for tennis development. Today the venue is host to the Soweto Open, an ATP 100 Futures event, annually. In 2013, Serena and Venus Williams held an exhibition event at the centre, their first time in South Africa.
The JTI is a 14-and-under junior development programme funded by the ITF, which forms the foundation of a National Association's player development pathway in ITF member nations. The programme is overseen by the National Tennis Association and provides opportunities for increased participation in tennis, as well as identifying the most talented players for focused player development.
The JTI incorporates four key elements, Tennis10s development (10-and-under tennis) within primary schools and clubs; Junior Tennis (children 12-and-under & 14-and-under) within all the secondary schools and clubs; Junior Performance Tennis for the most talented; and the effective use of equipment such as balls, bats and rackets, provided by the ITF.