Our aim is to teach a life skill… and skills for life.
The WTSA programme is based on the philosophy that, through sport, people learn many important life skills including discipline, self-confidence, and team work. Additional benefits likely to be gained by disabled participants in our programme including independence, confidence, improved self-worth and self-reliance. Continuous participation in our programme leads to an enhanced physical strength, giving participants increased quality of life with the ability to push themselves up ramps, transfer between chairs easily and generally better cope with everyday challenges.
Our multi-levelled programme is structured to carry participants from introduction to the sport, to skills development through a weekly training programme and for those who have interest and ability, to progression to regional and national tournaments, and finally to participation in international events.
The programme focuses on capacity building, development and transformation and aims to reach out to and upskill as many people with a physical disability as possible. The sustainability of the programme is ensured by providing participants with sufficient equipment and skill levels to be motivated to continue to improve and challenge themselves.
The development phases of our programme are outlined below.
Tennis Play+Stay – Serve, rally and score!
In 2007 the ITF officially launched a global campaign aimed at increasing tennis participation worldwide. The Tennis Play and Stay campaign aims to promote tennis as easy, fun and healthy, and to ensure all starter players are able to serve, rally and score from their first lesson. Fundamental to the campaign is the use of slower balls by coaches working with starter players, ensuring that their first experience of tennis is a positive one, where players are able play the game. The “Serve, rally and score!” philosophy forms the foundation of the WTSA introductory level programme.
The goal of the introductory campaign is to identify specific special schools and clubs within communities, and to establish a programme at those schools, clubs, or a nearby facility. The only prerequisites to initiate an introductory clinic is that players need to be either physically or visually impaired, and due to budgetary constraints, that there is a group of 4 or more players.
Introductory clinics acquaint players with basic ball and tennis skills, and are fun-centric and are run at the interested venues / or schools where they will have the greatest reach. Coaches and educators are able to gauge the potential for development at their specific venues and hopefully, be inclined to continue the programme.
As the majority of special schools and Clubs are in rural, or non-urban areas, the bulk of our work is focused in these areas. The areas tend to be poor, have limited funds, few facilities and generally no equipment. WTSA through sponsored funds, pay for the coaching, tennis equipment and tennis wheelchairs and training material which remain at the venue for continued communal use.
Player development (beginner) level
This phase focuses on teaching the basics of wheelchair tennis on a weekly basis. Fun-filled coaching is provided once per week for groups of between 4 and 8 players by local qualified and registered coaches skilled in teaching tennis. These coaches are remunerated by WTSA at the national average rate.
Basic equipment including racquets and balls, as well as blind tennis balls, nets and lines, and, budget allowing, tennis wheelchairs are provided to the active centres / schools by WTSA. Consumables such as strings & grips are provided to the player development centres on an on-going basis and fees for monitoring of the centres and continued support and training are covered by WTSA.
Regional player (advanced beginners) level
As the players learn to serve, score, rally they are ready to compete. The love of games and desire to win is integral to human nature and we present our players with the opportunity to partake in fun games and complete in tournaments as early as possible. This immediately elevates those with talent and ability, and teaches players the valuable life lessons in perseverance, discipline, and the desire and taste for success.
At this level players continue to attend weekly group lessons in their regions, but also complete in a quarterly tournament at their centres. The winners of these tournaments go through to the Future Star Camp – a 3 day regional camp for advanced beginners with potential, run on a quarterly basis. At the end of the camp, the players complete in a mini tournament, the best players in this tournament qualify to play in the international event held that quarter.
The Future Star Camp teaches the players advanced skills, exposes juniors to their peers from around the country and gives coaches the opportunity to come together, and work with their players under the direction of the national coach. Regional coaches receive valuable guidance and advice on methods and drills to strengthen their players over the next quarter based on the skill level of that particular group.
Provincial player level
Only a select number of players advance to this level, designed to serve as a nursery of potential national and International players. Players that reach this level have fully mastered the basic tennis skills and now become the role models for younger aspirants and stand as a shining example of what can be achieved.
Our provincial players receive additional coaching, tennis equipment, a personal tennis chair and all consumables such as strings and grips are covered. At this level, they have access to more coaching sessions with better qualified coaches, but are also required to take responsibility for their own development and are expected to practice independently.
Often, players at this level are identified as having the potential to go to the top, and are fast-tracked into the national player phase.
National player level
Provincial players showing a predetermined level of skill, determination, and character progress to this level.
Our national player group is limited to about 20 players across 3 different divisions (mens, womens, quads). These individuals have been identified as having the potential and determination to achieve a world ranking are provided with all the support and training necessary to ably compete at an international level.
Built on the foundation of the players development and provincial level programmes, the national players have access to a training subsidy which covers 2 individual lessons / squads per week and/ or weekly sessions with a hitting partner in the regions, this could even be increased in order to fast track development. These players must attend national camps, practice independently and participate in 4- 6 international and national events per year.
The national training camps are used to assess the athletes progress, polish his/her game, and develop the athlete both on and off the court. The players’ regional coaches are invited to attend so as to ensure the whole team ’ player, regional coach, performance manager, and national coach are continually working towards the same goals and objectives.
Performance player programme
Approximately 6 top players across all divisions are selected for this highly prestigious, yet demanding programme.
The performance programme is aimed at creating great tennis players and true sporting ambassadors that we, as a nation, can be proud of, and that position South Africa as one of the top wheelchair tennis structures and nations in the world.
The Performance Players in this programme have been given the opportunity of living their dream. These players travel to events as professional athletes. Many of these athletes still need to work or study, and are provided with the support services and training needed. They are expected to compete in 4-6 events held nationally, and to stand a chance of reaching the above mentioned rankings, need to compete in approximately 15-18 events abroad per year. These players would also form part of the teams representing South Africa at the annual World Team Cup.
In order to meet their heavy training and travel schedules, these players are provided with custom-made sports chairs, which need replacing every 2 years due to the amount of wear and tear withstood. A large allocation of consumables is allocated to these players as well as essential access to support and medical services.