The National Youth Games came to a close on Monday, 16 September in Kwara State’s capital, Ilorin. There were, as usual, plenty of impressive performances from the youngsters who competed for top honours in tennis.
With hostilities now over, some of the coaches have reflected on their team’s performances.
Ekiti State clinched 1 Gold and 2 Bronze medals, with Daniel Adeleye and Seun Ogunshakin winning the boys doubles, Esther Oni finishing third in the girls singles and then, teaming up with Adeleye to finish third in the mixed doubles category. The head coach, Wumi Ogunsakin attributes the State’s success to God’s Grace and says he’s optimistic that the State’s junior players, with adequate support, can begin to dominate the national scene.
“I believe with God on our side and me and the kids not relenting in training, I believe we will get there,” the head coach said. “The major issue is just equipment because that’s the thing I’m lacking. Balls, rackets, shoes because that’s part of what affected Oni Esther.
“In training she trains with her leg, the shoe she has she kept it because of tournaments like this. If she has more than 2-3 shoes, she’d be able to move well in training. If we can get sponsors I believe we will go places.”
The coach also revealed that steps are going to be taken to ensure that the players keep on progressing.
“The commissioner of sports for Ekiti was around to see the boys quarterfinals match and he was surprised to see kids at that level play like that,” Coach Ogunsakin said. “He told me after the match to come and meet him personally so we can draw a map on how they can progress beyond the country. That’s a right step and the good thing is that Ekiti are naturally gifted in sport.”
Oyo also had a fine outing, with the Western state winning a medal in every category. Imole Afolabi secured silver in the girls singles, Mubarak Ganiyu claimed Bronze in the boys singles, Ganiyu and Akinmusire Olayemi took Bronze in the boy’s doubles, Imole Afolabi and Bamidele Awe got Bronze in the girls’ doubles, and in the mixed doubles, Ganiyu and Afolabi clinched Bronze. The head coach, Timirisiyu Ganiyu owes the success to God and their hardwork, saying that it isn’t an easy task, as they have to train kids everyday, including weekends.
“I’d like to thank some people in the state like Mr Foluso Arike who gave us some balls to train the kids,” Coach Ganiyu added.
Their success at the Games is going to spur them into doing more. The coach says they’re not going to relax, as activities ahead of next year’s event are going to commence without delay.
“To be honest, we are going to start the activities for the next youth games right at the end of this tournament and hopefully by next year I can get a gold medal. I planned to have a gold medal this year, but it eluded me,” he revealed.
Akwa Ibom, too, had a memorable campaign, as they finished with 3 Silver and 1 Bronze in tennis, with youngster, David Ekpenyong hugely instrumental in the State’s success. The Assistant Coach, Ubong Essien says the secret behind Ekpenyong’s performance is down to “hardwork and perseverance.”
“We prepared his mind to face any kind of opponent not just to expect a particular opponent,” Coach Essien said. “We trained him to play whatever comes his way whether an older player or a younger player.”
Winning 3 Silver medals meant they got to 3 finals and lost in all of them. Was this as a result of pressure or inexperience? Coach Essien doesn’t think so.
“I wouldn’t say it was pressure or inexperience,” the Assistant Coach said. “I believe the semifinals were stronger, so they on their own part believed that the final opponents were a weaker opponent, so they relaxed but all the same there has to be a winner and a loser.”
And they’re already making plans to do better in next year’s edition.
“It is to go back to the drawing board and look at the mistakes we did in this tournament and work on them so we can come out with a better performance next year.”