34-year-old Abdulmumin Babalola will lead a team of Nigerian youngsters to the ITF/CAT African Junior Circuit for 14 & Under in Togo, from 30 March – April 5.
It will be the second coaching duty for Babalola in the space of a month, having led the National Under-12 team to the African Junior Championship Finals qualifiers in Cotonou, where the boys finished 3rd in their category.
Babalola, who has been unarguably one of the best players in Nigeria for almost two decades reveals the immense pleasure being a junior national coach gives him, while also acknowledging the weight of expectations that comes with it.
“It’s a thing of joy for me,” said Babalola. “But come to think of it, it’s a big task to be a Junior National Coach because we need to change a lot of things about the kids, we need to face a lot of problems with the parents and we also need to work with the parents to get better results.
“The expectations are on the coach which is very okay by me because I’ve played the game to the highest level. I know no fear, because I always believe in hard work.”
The Ibadan-native, while expressing gratitude to the leadership of the country’s tennis federation, sounded confident, having done quite some work with the players—which include, Suleiman Ibrahim, Ganiyu Mubarak, Gabriel Inyang, and John Peters in the boys’ team, and a girls’ team comprising Oiza Yakubu, Iye Onoja, Mary Udoffa, and Esther Oni—and is optimistic of a better outing with this team.
“If you’re well prepared for a tournament, your confidence level will be so right and okay,” Babalola noted. “Right now, I want to say a big thanks to the President [of the] Nigeria Tennis Federation, who made the camp happen this time around. I think with the team I have… I’m hoping to come back with better results this time around.”
“I tried to boost their [team’s] morale and confidence level because they have enough playing and training time, so I think they are very ready,” he added.
The coach also thanked the Nigerian tennis community and implored them to stand solidly behind the team always.
“I want to thank all the tennis lovers in the country and across the sea,” Babalola said. “This is the 2nd assignment given to me, we need their prayers and support and by the special grace of God we’d come back with joy and better results this time around.
“Keep supporting and we keep winning for you.”