From Slum To Slam: Rock Tennis Foundation Changing Lives, One Player At A Time
For five consecutive years, the Rock Tennis Foundation has been on a roller coaster with its year-round tennis clinic aimed at taking kids off the streets.
In five years since the initiative kicked off, the number of success being recorded has been unprecedented, with a number of the kids also growing to national prominence in the process.
But this whole idea started with a desire, with a passion to rid the streets of immoral kids and build a competitive desire in them afterwards, hence the organization’s slogan; from slum to slam.
And in 2024, the Rock Tennis Foundation Clinic and Tournament is holding from 2-6 January, inside the tennis section of the Abeokuta Sports Club, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Mr. Akinyemi Bammeke, the president of the Rock Tennis Foundation, during a brief chat with Nigeria Tennis Live during the event, expressed excitement at how the initiative has grown in the past few years.
“The tournament was born afterwards, the initial plan was the tennis clinic initiative, and it was just to engage the kids.
“The initiative was borne out of passion for kids morality, and the hatred for immorality.
“The community was becoming immoral. We love tennis and we thought tennis was a tool to get the kids off the streets. That’s the main objective.
“That’s what we’ve built on to develop these players to become champions hence the slum to slam slogan,” he told our correspondent inside the tennis house of the Abeokuta Sports Club, venue of this year’s event.
Mr. Bammeke, who is based outside the country, also explained how the initiative grew into having national players compete in Ogun State for honours.
He said: “Without competitions, we didn’t think there’d be any way to measure their progress. We wanted people to also come around to compete with them as well. We did statewide, and now we’re going across the country.
“We also do closed tournament for our kids as well”.
One of the ways to of measuring the progress of this kind of initiative is by talent identification, annd the Rock Tennis Foundation is not short in this regard.
Mr. Bammeke explained that “We run this year round, our coaches coach off school times and we have like an academy here.
“We’ve been able to able to identify talents. Usman Kushimo was already growing when we started but we can still say that we’re part of his development, he got a scholarship but couldn’t go because of visa.
“Asides him, we have the Oduwaye brothers, as well as some other players that you already identified when you came around earlier.
“Remember that we’re getting them from the slums and we’re identifying their challenges one after the other.
“Last year, we were able to acquire a stringing machine for them. They have rackets now, we’re talking about strings and we’re providing them with these.
“We’re identifying one/two in different categories and take full responsibility; academics, nutrition and all they’re doing while they’re not even with us.
“We’re doing stuff as we can afford them. We have not missed any year, the continuity has always been there”.
In terms of sponsorships and how they have been able to sustain this initiative for the past five years,
Mr. Oludare Kuforiji, Chairman Abeokuta Sports Club Tennis Section noted that they have never been short.
In fact, he said: “When the foundation started, there were four, today we have about 10 confirmed. Without being pitched to, I just found myself inside.
“This year, we have three new partners joining. We are seeing values. For those who have the passion to give back will want to jump on it.
“We are looking at taking it to the next level by reaching corporate sponsorships”.
Speaking further, Mr. Bammeke also itemized areas where he believes the Foundation still has work to do, even though he believes that their moves are a gradual process.
“From the developmental side, we can score ourselves low, but we’re moving gradually.
“And that is because of resources to pay. We’ve not been able to pay our coaches as we would have loved to.
“We are in the process of putting a structure in place, to make the players do better and help them achieve their goals.
“But we can score ourselves very high on the main objective of the initiative, to take the children off the streets.
“More than sixty kids are being trained year round but for the clinic, we have over 100 because new people join and may pick interest in tennis from just attending”.