As you shield your eyes from the glare of the searing sun, you’ll see a group of 29 young Indigenous athletes shaping their future with each swing of the racquet.
Tennis great Evonne Goolagong is making it her mission to ‘positively influence’ the future of the next generation of Indigenous youth. Through her tennis program/camp and foundation, Evonne promotes better health, education and employment.
Head coach, Anzac Leidig, has been coaching with the foundation for 14 years, combining his passion for mentoring young Indigenous kids with tennis.
Anzac reflected that the kids love the week because “they get to spend a full six days with their idol Evonne,” someone they have heard so much about from their parents and grandparents.
The week also involves a lot of activities, “It’s a real growth experience for them.” Evonne organises for the kids to go to the Australian Open and not only watch world-class tennis, but also play on Rod Laver. “It’s a highlight of their year.”
“You can see that they’re all really excited when we see them. And often at the end of camp, you’ll notice that they’re all a bit teary because they’ve made so many connections. It’s a great stepping stone to positively start off the year.”
One of the kids, 12-year-old Asia said, “[the] camp means everything to me, at first I thought I may be too young and other older kids would get the spot, but it is a privilege to be here. It means I can improve my tennis and be a better person.”
However, the program extends much further than the 29 kids who are fortunate enough to spend a week away in Melbourne. Anzac explains that the foundation holds ‘come and try’ days at a grass-roots level. They go around the country promoting and encouraging Indigenous kids to come down to give tennis a go and have fun.
“We put on a free healthy lunch for them, provide tennis racquets, shirts and bottles from Evonne,” said Anzac.
“We encourage the Indigenous kids to be good role models in their communities, stay in school and eat healthy. From there we hand out some scholarships for free coaching to kids that have shown a good attitude and stayed in school, continually returning to those areas assisting the kids that have been keen to make the most of their opportunities.”
Monash University is proud to partner with the Evonne Goolagong Foundation to create this opportunity for young people to enjoy an awesome week away and with great facilities. We are right behind all the kids that have gone through the program and with several national players at the camp, we have our fingers crossed that we are helping mould Australia’s next grand-slam champion.
Written by: James Oana