#TennisAid Uganda

Having been in daily contact with our friends, we knew we came to Kampala during the raining season. It is Sunday morning and it rains heavily. At 11 it stops raining and the sun rises, the sky is almost cloudless. We open the bags and give them all the clothing and equipment we could collect. We take a Minitennis net and start playing in the courtyard with a neighbor’s child.

Our hosts, coaches of the Jouvin Child Sports Association have scheduled a lesson with the Ntinda School for the Deaf. 16 deaf children expect us to give them an extraordinary tennis lesson.

The first contact was really strange. You could tell they had expectations to see two coaches visit them, but to make a good first impression on foreign children who are deaf and almost mute (the few who can speak do it with much difficulty) would not be an easy task.

We started doing a simple warm-up routine, and to our surprise, they did it perfectly. Then we went to do an exercise in pairs so everyone could work at the same time. Again they gave us a lesson in discipline, seriousness and obedience. They worked non-stop, no gesture of annoyance or discomfort. And always smiling.

#TennisAid Uganda

Then we started a competitive exercise and they were all smiling because the enjoyed everything we offered. We divided the group of kids in two. Some worked with Abel and others with me. The iam was to commit the fewest errors possible, and my team ended up losing. Those who were with Abel jumped for joy, but the strange thing was the celebration was silent. My group laughed because I pretended to be sad about the defeat.

We played again and this time we won. Explosion of joy! And suddenly a girl came behind me and hugged me.
At that moment, I felt millions of feelings. And for a minute I needed to move away from the group and have a moment for myself.
Being deaf-mute in Africa is not an easy obstacle to overcome. Yet, they seem happy with what they have, and they develop normally.
That hug made me think that these children have a huge lack of affection, but in fact it showed the great heart they have. It was really moving.

Next article: our second day in Uganda, at the Shimoni school.

We’re heading to the airport of Barcelona, arrive well in time, we check in, wait in the departure lounge. Suddenly I realize that I forgot one of the two backpacks we’re allowed to take with us on the plane. I run through security controls and get it back.

We leave towards London. A 3-hour stop at Heathrow and then a 7-hour flight to Uganda.

After getting off the plane and passing health checks, we go through visa control where we have to play €40 each.

In all the many tips I have made in my life, a customs officer had never talked to me with such kindness and humor:

Customs officer: Spain? What’s good in Spain?
Abel: Barcelona!
Customs officer: but Barcelona is really in Spain or not in Spain? (with an ironic look)

We collect our luggage and go without showing our certificate of donation we had dealt with the Ugandan Consulate in Badalona to avoid being charged a fee for introducing material into the country.

Our friends receive us with effusive hugs and warm welcome. We get into two cars and start the journey: about 45 minutes from Entebbe to Kampala.

First impression: the atmosphere is relaxed, many people in the streets (it’s Saturday night), traffic is informal, there is no light on the road.

During the trip, our host Vincent will not stop thanking us for the effort to get there and the help we will provide.
We begin to understand the magnitude of the trip and its impact on these people. We arrive in Bukoto, where we will stay in the house of one of the coaches (Julius Kyobe). My apartment is not especially big, but my bedroom is bigger than his house. There is no sink in the bathroom. No matter, it’s just a detail.
Abel and I have to share a bed while Julius sleeps on a tiny mattress on the floor. We put mosquito nets and after a brief chat, we go to bed. Our task starts on Sunday morning.

Also read:
– #TennisAid Uganda: the story of Martin Rocca
– #TennisAid Uganda: the project
– #TennisAid Uganda: the funding

Follow Martin on Twitter and Instagram.

Once Abel Rincon and I decided to embark on a solidarity trip to Uganda, we had to think how to raise money to buy the stuff we wanted to donate, pay tickets for Kampala and stay for a week.

First we thought about selling products that were attractive and easy to sell.
So, we ordered 1,000 tennis ball keychains we would sell €2 each and 1,000 “WE LOVE Mini #TennisAid” silicone bracelets we’d sell €1 each. We did not expect that people would be so involved and suddenly we started receiving rackets, clothing, money.

One of the most pleasant surprises we had during this process was the shipment we received from WTA player Tita Torro: a box with 8 racquets, grips, cords…
We also got a racquet from another Silvia Soler, that we put up for auction on eBay. The fact that some players sympathize with our project, allowed us to gain more attention and give more dimension to our adventure.

At the same time, one of our hosts, Julius Kyobe confirmed us he would give us accommodation in his house, so lodging expenses and purchase of equipment were covered and we just had to focus on paying our flights.

The most surprising thing is we planned the trip in just 4 weeks: visas, vaccinations, certificates of donations (to prove the equipment was a donation and had no commercial purpose), collection of equipment… without forgetting we were still working as coaches!

The contributions did not stop there and our joy grew daily: the ESI Foundation (Esports Solidari Internacional) gave us a major boost: several boxes of clothes that could equip more than 130 children.

Bracelets came just 3 days before our trip, and the girls at the reception of the Tarragona Tennis Club (our base at the time) sold 850 of them in only 36 hours.

We had money, luggage were ready. Barcelona-London-Entebbe. En route!

Also read:
– #TennisAid Uganda: the story of Martin Rocca
– #TennisAid Uganda: the project

Follow Martin on Twitter and Instagram.

#TennisAid Uganda

Enjoy part 2 of this series of posts about charity project #TennisAid:

The origin of the project was totally casual and spontaneous. Out of habit, I record my tennis lessons, especially with younger players, I edit the videos, add some music and try to give them an original format. This constant search for innovation pushed me to make a video of mini-tennis, but this time not only with pictures of my students, I thought I could show how to work with kids around the world.

I started contacting by mail or Facebook coaches I knew or coaches who work with young children. My request was clear and simple: to record about 15 minutes of their tennis lesson, and send it to me, either by mail, Whatsapp or any other mean. That’s how a work of about 5 months started.
Several people people answered me immediately. Others asked me time because their schools were on holidays. After 3 months, less than 20% had answered me.

Finally, in September 2014, and with over 30 countries represented, I managed to finish the “We love Mini” video. Clubs with good infrastructures and a clear organization, or overcrowded classes and coaches who work more with their will and vocation than with equipments: contrasts are obvious. Take the case of Victoria Tennis in Kenya: one coach on a court with about 40 students, throwing balls by hand. A beautiful chaos. In the video, you can see images of countries such as Zimbabwe, Germany, Nigeria, USA, Yemen, Argentina, Mexico, Estonia, Brazil and Egypt.

One of the fastest coaches to answer to my request was Vince Mowereza, from the city of Kampala, capital of Uganda. He is dedicated to promote tennis in schools with the help of his friend Julius Kyobe. They work for free, just to spread the sport.
He told me he was looking with envy at the amount of equipment I have to work kids’ psycho-motor skills, and he had absolutely no way to get that equipment in his town.
My first thought was that I could buy a few mini-tennis balls of all sizes and pressures and send them by mail. Then I thought I could also send a few racquets.

I talked about it with my friend and club-mate Abel Rincon, who spontaneously said: “What if we go there and bring him the equipment instead of sending it?” We looked at each other an started laughing. Because right there we realized that the trip would become reality and that we would end up going to Africa to donate sports equipment.

We knew that we were embarking on a great adventure. What we did not know is the magnitude it would reach.

Also read:
#TennisAid Uganda: the story of Martin Rocca
#TennisAid Uganda: the funding
#TennisAid: the arrival in Uganda
#TennisAid Uganda: the Ntinda School for the Deaf
#TennisAid: the second day in Uganda – the Shimoni Primary School
#TennisAid third day in Uganda
#TennisAid fourth day in Uganda

Follow Martin on Twitter and Instagram.

#TennisAid Uganda

Thanks to the website todosobretenis.ar I discovered the story of Martin Rocca and his charity project, #TennisAid. In the next weeks, I will share with you his memories of his moving experience with kids in Uganda. But first, read his story:

After working as a coach in Argentina for almost a decade, I emigrated to the United States in 1998, looking for some fresh air. I’ve stayed in New York for five years and this experience strongly marked my personal life: I became a fan of the city, got married, had my first child there, but professionally I felt that I wasn’t learning as much as I wanted. Despite that, I still keep in memory one of the jobs I enjoyed most as a coach: teach tennis on the courts of Central Park every summer day at 7am. People would turn up every morning, and you never knew who would come to play. This uncertainty and the need to adapt to different players every hour fascinated me.

After the attack on the Twin Towers, the city changed a lot and a year later I moved to Europe. After a brief stint in Italy, Barcelona gave me the opportunity to work on clay courts again. At the Gimnastic de Tarragona, I began a new stage of my life and during four years I learned the secrets of Spanish tennis, and especially the Catalan tennis philosophy (and enjoyed the birth of my daughter).

The CT Reus Monterols hired me in 2008 and there I enjoyed a social and professional environment where I always felt really comfortable, with exceptional colleagues. But two years later, the CT Tarragona offered me a very tempting challenge: take charge of the mini-tennis group, which by that time had more than 100 children. A high-level club with very good facilities and important events (Challengers, Spain Championships, Senior ITF tournaments…). This club also allowed me to do the work I enjoy most: to train players. The two groups of Tennis Base (mini-tennis and pre-competition) with boys ranging from 3 to 9 years old, made me grow as a professional and got the best of me. A year ago, I started a Facebook page called Miniplayers where I post photos and videos of work done with these groups.

Together with my friend Abel Rincon I founded a solidarity movement called #TennisAid whereby we collect sports equipments and offer them to friends who coach in countries with fewer resources. In November 2014 we made our first trip to Kampala, capital of Uganda and last May we were in Kep, a small coastal town in Cambodia. Both experiences, especially the first one, have profoundly marked us.

I am also very fortunate to have been invited to speak about my work with children and solidarity trips in cities like Cuenca, Zaragoza, Valencia and Barcelona (during the Barcelona ATP tournament). I am now facing another challenge: to take as Director of junior tennis at FC Sant Cugat, Barcelona, where I hope to put into practice what I have learned over these 25 years touring club worldwide.

(Words by Martin, translation by Tennis Buzz).

Read next:
#TennisAid Uganda: the project
#TennisAid Uganda: the funding
#TennisAid: the arrival in Uganda
#TennisAid Uganda: the Ntinda School for the Deaf
#TennisAid: the second day in Uganda – the Shimoni Primary School
#TennisAid third day in Uganda
#TennisAid fourth day in Uganda

Update: read the story of Martin’s second trip to Uganda.

Follow Martin on Twitter and Instagram.