In the spirit of the Arafura Games, Australia’s Paralympic wheelchair tennis coaches have facilitated a free coaching clinic for the athletes of Timor Leste, in an effort to develop the sport across the region.
With Timor Leste’s distinct gap in skill set and with no other countries entered in the tournament, it was then that Tennis Australia’s development team decided to offer their support.
“Well, they’ve come out here and haven’t played many international competitions before, and as a result they’ve come out here unprepared,” Tennis Australia’s National Wheelchair Tennis Development Manager Greg Crump said. “Some of their players were off the pace.
“We helped out with free training sessions, and it’s fantastic to see that even after the first session, how much they’ve improved.”
Teaching them chair-pushing and hitting techniques, as well as conducting drills and friendly matches, Crump said it was also the realisation of how powerful the Arafura Games can be for the region.
“They were pretty much novices and also the coach didn’t have much of a background in tennis. Their stroke production is pretty good now and their willingness and keenness to learn is fantastic,” he said.
“To have the Games in this region is so valuable because countries like Timor-Leste can get involved.
“It’s an opportunity they wouldn’t normally get…to come out here to a fantastic centre in Darwin, and also play against some good Australian junior and senior players. Arafura is a wonderful experience. People playing the game, it’s what it’s all about.”
It wasn’t just the Timor-Leste athletes that took lessons from Crump’s training sessions; it was also a learning opportunity for junior Australian athletes like 17-year-old Hayley Slocombe.
“It’s been great to have Timor-Leste here,” Slocombe said. “I’ve been able to meet some people I would have never met before and learn about their way of life.”
The 2019 Arafura Games will finish on 4 May.
By Sascha Ryner, Paralympics Australia