South African tennis great John-Laffnie de Jager has been on the forefront of the Tennis Cares initiative, that aims to assist all coaches and officials in the country who are most in need under the current lockdown regulations. CGTN’s Sias du Plessis sheds more light on the newly launched foundation.
No sport has been unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result many coaches and officials are battling to make ends meet as the lockdown ensures no income from coaching or officiating at events, now, thanks to an initiative by former South African Davis Cup captain, John-Laffnie de Jager, those struggling coaches and officials have a way to put food on the table.
“During this time we really realised how much the coaches are struggling and the tennis officials, they don’t have any platforms where they can get support from government and a lot of them reached out to me and then I decided let’s do this so I called Tennis South Africa and spoke to Richard Glover, how they can get involved and help so we created the Tennis Cares Foundation in partnership with Tennis SA and the Caring Daisies,” John Laffine De Jager, former S. Africa Davis Cup Captain.
The foundation aims to assist 60-70% of the 850 registered coaches in South Africa over the new few months and de Jager hopes that it can become a sustainable project that will continue to support those in times of need.
“We have a strict application, they have to send their bank accounts, they’ve got to send a motivational letter why they need help because we only want to help the ones that are in desperate need and the applications are coming in on a daily basis, I know everybody is struggling, we will probably see in the next week or so how many are really struggling.”
The former tour professional believes that tennis is one of the sports that should be allowed to continue as it sees no contact between players and says that a study done by the Italian Olympic Committee of 389 sports says, that it is one of the safest to participate in during the global crisis.
“We have disinfectant and sanitizer on court, we’ve got rules where only the coach handles the balls, so the players don’t pick up the balls, so Tennis South Africa and the coaches have put all these protocols in place and now it is up to government to see that it is safer to play tennis than go to the shopping centre or go to the store to buy some food and stand in a queue,” Laffine adds.
Ball boys and girls look set to play less of a role when the sport resumes and won’t be handling the player’s towels between games, the handshake will become a thing of the past and will be replaced by the banging of racquets and although on the periphery the game will be different, on the court, it will be serving up business as usual.