As part of his purpose of visit to Nigeria, the ITF Development Officer for West and Central Africa, Illou Lonfo, met with Nigerian tennis coaches in Abuja.
Among those in attendance were Rotimi Akinloye, the national coach, Coach Abe Babatunde, a well-respected coach in the country and Abdulmumin Babalola, who recently guided the national Under-12 team to a third-place finish at the AJC qualifiers in Cotonou. Also present were Edmond Ajoge, sponsor of the Tombim Abuja Open, the NTF President, Engr. Dayo Akindoju, Tobi Amore, who’s the Abuja National Stadium coach, the FCT Coach, Sunday Samuel, and Wummi Ogunshakin- the Ekiti State Tennis Head Coach and father to Seun Ogunshakin, a 10-year-old tennis prodigy.
Lonfo stressed the need for the country’s coaches to undergo training and get certificates to improve their knowledge, before pressing home the importance of investing time and money into players. He emphasized the importance of keeping the kids fit and competitive by running monthly tournaments in different states across the country.
On top of that, the ITF expert underlined the need for a national junior rankings, so as to avoid the temptation of favouritism in selection and also enable junior players work harder, with the incentive of obtaining high rankings. Lonfo suggested having coaches for the different age groups instead of allowing only the national junior tennis coach do all the work.
“Nigeria needs a good structure, because there are a lot of potentials in this country,” Lonfo said. “The coaches also have to work together. We should not just be result oriented, we should always look out for performances unless there will always be a big vacuum.”
The Ivorian also emphasized the need for youngsters not to be limited to playing tournaments within the African continent.
“I encourage you to try and send your kids, the U10s, U12s to go abroad to play tournaments, not only in Africa.”
The national coach, Rotimi Akinloye also spoke to all who were present, dishing out advice to the coaches in particular.
“Illou Lonfo is from this region, so he understands our problem as much as we do. He is here to advice and help us on how we should go about it,” Akinloye said. “Don’t overcharge sponsors because of your personal welfare.
“Seek help from other coaches who understand some techniques better than you, so they can help your kids and players be better. Everybody will still acknowledge the person that discovered the kids/players.
“You can register and be part of a club, so you can play with and also meet potential sponsors,” the national coach added.