This article was originally published on Sportanddev.org and it has been updated on 11th October 2021.
A decade of development through tennis: Fundacion Rafa Nadal is bridging the gap between communities in Anantapur
- In 2010, Fundacion Rafa Nadal, in collaboration with Rural Development Trust, started the Nadal Education and Tennis School (NETS) in Anantapur, India for the social integration of marginalized children.
Over the past eleven years, the Nadal Education and Tennis School (NETS) has reached out to 1,884 (1,270 boys; 614 girls) and created access to sport, while breaking the barriers of gender, religion and poverty. Tennis in India is often perceived as the sport of the rich, especially due to the lack of quality infrastructure and coaches. NETS created access to tennis for the disadvantaged and marginalized children in India by building state-of-the-art tennis infrastructure, with 3 floodlit clay courts and 2 synthetic courts, while also providing access to nutritious food. On average, every year 200 children make use of these facilities by participating in the program.
For the past decade, NETS has offered English and computer education along with tennis coaching. Children, many of whom are first-generation literates, got an opportunity to learn and computers and the English language, which helped them to perform better in their education and increased their employability. Reports show that only 54.92% of the population has mobile phones with internet access, and only 0.57% of households in Anantapur have a computer or a laptop. Though public schools create access to computer education for children, lack of maintenance and quality teaching hampers access. At NETS, children are regularly taught computers, which makes them digitally able and prepares them for a future in the digitally connected world.
NETS has proved that sport is an effective tool for development. In a society where poverty, community and gender-based discrimination are rampant and normalized, NETS engages with tribal children and girls from different communities in Anantapur District, helping them break the rigid stereotypes and social stigmas, all through sports. NETS has acted as an equalizer, providing a level playing field to everyone, and helped disadvantaged children access sport and quality skill education.
“Learning English and computers helped me immensely. I was not very confident at first but learning communications skills at NETS boosted my confidence. Computer classes helped in my education. Through NETS, I learned that everyone is equal, which is not taught at home. All of us, no matter which school we went to, or gender, how poor or rich we are, whichever community we belonged to, we all wore the same uniform to sessions, same shoes and same racquets, travelled in the same bus and played together. Learning these essential values at a young age indeed changed my perspective towards life and the community around me,” says, Talari Sreenu, an ex-student who now volunteers at NETS.
Not only the pupils, but individuals with an interest in the sport are also provided with opportunities. Narsimhulu and Prasad Babu, two ground staff at NETS, showed keen interest in the sport while maintaining grounds. Looking at their interest, the coaches at NETS trained them in tennis for years, and they have now part of the coaching team at NETS. Both of them hail from vulnerable communities and never dreamed of playing tennis as kids. But now they are coaching children who come from similar backgrounds to them in tennis.
NETS empowers youth by helping them build skills and increase their employability while creating sustainable employment opportunities. Youth with playing experience and a keen interest in the sport are provided with volunteer opportunities and scholarships to pursue a career in coaching. Pallavi is a student of NETS who, along with other children, trained in tennis for 8 years. Her interest in sport got her an offer at NETS as a volunteer coach, and NETS helped her complete her coaching certification. Today, Pallavi is an AITA certified coach. Like Pallavi, many other youths are volunteering at NETS and learning coaching skills.
For over a decade, NETS had created a significant impact in rural and urban areas of Anantapur district, by creating access to infrastructure for children to play tennis in a way that cannot be seen in many cities in India. NETS has also educated children by teaching them English, computers and life skills, essential for their holistic development. NETS has, ultimately, empowered youth by creating opportunities for them and helping them prepare for their professional careers. NETS is breaking the vicious cycle of poverty, through a decade of work in children’s development, helping them change their destiny, building bridges between communities and creating a level playing field for the children.
Text: Ernest Abhishek Paul