Mumbai: Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association has started an initiative to spread the game into tribal and Naxalite-infested interiors of the state and has already trained 22 youth to not only play the game but also coach children from nearby areas.

The Kaushalya Vikas Tribal Tennis programme’s aim is to bring the tribal youth into the mainstream of the society by educating them in tennis coaching skills and officiating, according to MSLTA official Sunder Iyer.

Some tribal youth, including four girls, have been selected by the ATC from 6 districts of the Vidarbha region – including a few from Gadchiroli – and were trained by Arjun Sutar and Kapil Chutele, both All India Tennis Association-recognised coaches for around 8 hours a day.

MSLTA provided requisite kit, equipment and technical support for the training and the ATC office took the responsibility of taking care of the lodging and boarding for these candidates, said Iyer.

The initiative is the brainchild of a team comprising MSLTA treasurer Iyer, ITF Level 3 tutor Hemant Bendrey, Manoj Vaidya (chief coach of MSLTA), MSLTA member Prashant Sutar and Additional Tribal Commissioner (Nagpur) Dr Pallavi Darade.

Among the lot is Umesh Gedam, an unemployed tribal youth from a small hamlet in Chandrapur district who has got job offers from Pune, Hyderabad, Nagpur as a coach.

Gedam is one of the 22 tribal youth who have job offers in various cities across the state and the list includes seven others from the Naxalite-infested district of Gadchiroli and others from the districts of Gondia, Bhandara, Wardha, Chandrapur, Ramtek and Nagpur.

The common string binding them is that they have successfully completed a one-year diploma in tennis coaching conducted by MSLTA and the Additional Tribal Commissioner’s Office, Nagpur, and also a Level 1 All India Tennis Association certification, according to Iyer.      Having not seen a tennis ball or a racquet or shoe in their lives prior to the one-year coaching stint, today they could hold their own in competitive matches, Iyer said.

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