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​​The Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts in Central Western Jabavu came alive on Wednesday 11 October as hundreds of learners took to the tennis courts for the first time in their young lives, ready to explore, learn and take up opportunities at their disposal. 

It was a day to remember for the 360 Grade 5 learners as they listened in awe to professionals dispensing their wisdom.

The Tennis Get Ahead Sports Programme (GASP) was in town, bringing with it high performance coaches and the promise of Wimbledon for talented youngsters from schools in Soweto and the inner city. Talented youngsters will be propelled forward through the Move-It, Moving Matters programme.

The City of Johannesburg partnered in this venture by offering the Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts as a venue for identifying and developing talent.  As the only facility in a township which boasts as many as 16 tennis courts, the Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts is the pride of Joburg.  Other functional tennis courts in the township are the Moletsane Sports Complex, Protea Shopping Centre, Dobsonville Tennis Court and David Pine in Dobsonville Extension. The City is working on plans to renovate 14 other dilapidated tennis courts in Soweto.

The eager learners threw tennis balls in the air with one hand then hit it with the other. They had their hits and misses, but they were in good spirits, eager to learn more. Dressed in white T-shirts, they clutched their tennis rackets tightly, practicing ball-hitting techniques.

Coaches shouted instructions, corrected postures and stood on tiptoes as they demonstrated the way to get the ball to go in the right direction, even as you hit it hard. The hope is that the tennis bug will bite, and an avenue provided to nurture talent. GASP events seek to fast track the entry of talented youngsters into the sport and to demonstrate the potential of sport to forge social change.

“The Move It, Moving Matters programme together with the GASP programme were initiated as capacity-building interventions designed to address the lack of physical education in many schools, especially those located in challenged and impoverished communities, where, regrettably, the delivery of education and sport remain compromised. Without additional resources and interventions such as this, many children with talent would remain undiscovered, motorically limited and unnoticed,” says Dr Claire M Nicholson, Director and Expert Advisor of the Move-It, Moving Matters and GASP initiatives.

The next GAPS scheduled for November will focus on rugby.