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Top Israeli tennis coach visits SA

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Ilan Herrmann

                                                                                                                            

Ronen Moralli is Israel’s leading and most accomplished tennis coach and carries a global reputation in his field. He has produced Israel’s very best, including the Davis Cup duo of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, who also won the 2008 Australian Open Grand Slam doubles. Others under Moralli’s tutorage are Harel Levy and Noam Okun who have reached world ranking highs of 30 and 95 respectively. No mean feat.

But last week Moralli was not in Israel, but in Soweto’s Arthur Ash Tennis complex on a two week exchange programme helping to train and reach out to the local coaches and underprivileged youth.

The programme is the brainchild of the recently-appointed Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, who saw sport as an opportunity to build cultural ties and to show the real face of Israel to South Africans. The collaboration is between the Israeli Tennis Centers and Tennis South Africa.

“Israel is portrayed in such a negative light in the media and this has shaped perceptions,” says Moralli. “When I meet the people on the ground, they see an Israeli and can’t match it up to what they’ve been told to believe. Here is someone who cares, who shares, who extends respect and admiration. Seeing one another eye to eye has a big impact and helps undo some of the damage.”

The role of being an ambassador is not one Ronen has to worry about on a daily basis. He did, however, agree to move outside of his comfort zone and take time away from his busy schedule to play his part in helping re-correct myths and misconceptions that are out there. He has proved himself to be a great ambassador.

Besides the breaking of stereotypes, the anchor of his visit is to help build the right platform for local coaches who are helping these kids find their way forward in tennis. This means sharing techniques, establishing principles, models and structures that Moralli has used with great success elsewhere, that will hopefully with his guidance take root on the local scene.

In his words: “It’s been done in soccer, cricket and rugby. It’s now time to start developing a black South African tennis champion.”

Besides the actual tennis workshops, Moralli stresses the vital aspects of creating a good infrastructure for achievement – pride in oneself, the team and the coach; an environment that breeds unity; a club house or coaching-office that exudes a sense of awe and inspiration; respect and dignity of the coaching staff, which includes the basic remuneration due to them and not an income that shows an under-valued post.

Moralli also met with the SA national under-12 and under-14 coaches in Pretoria who had the opportunity to feed off his expertise as well.

The reverse side of the exchange programme is a coaching and players’ group to visit Israel in the future. The details are currently being worked out.

Asked about the players in the townships, Moralli said they were enthusiastic but lacked fundamentals and were undeveloped. This, he explained, would shift particularly with the calibre of coaches they had, who were remarkably committed, had exceptional talent and were wholly devoted to the cause.

Moralli describes the donated Arthur Ash Tennis Centre in Soweto as being similar to the way tennis became rooted in Israel. Tennis came to that country with the investment of some Jewish philanthropists who wanted the sport to grow and to give Israeli youth a chance to discover their talent.

The nature of these establishments was that anyone from any background could participate; you did not have to be rich, or part of some elite group. This is the same scenario in Soweto. Furthermore, he explained, Israel produced great players who had competed on the world circuit over the years, so there was no reason why it couldn’t be done in South Africa. So, in similar vein, he suggests that players of international calibre can ultimately came from these centres.

Moralli is an athlete who breeds winners, so it’s no surprise that he carries a strong vision and outlook on how to succeed at what you do. He speaks with conviction, energy and is quite philosophical.

He describes every juncture of life as being an intersection where you can proceed with either a negative or positive response. He talks about setting and pursuing one’s goals vigorously, using himself and his career as a prime example.

He is humble, yet determined. He communicates freely but is bent more on action and hard work. He speaks of those who complain that they don’t have time to do, and those who do don’t have time to complain.

 

Moralli has returned to Israel – to the 15 tennis centres, 11 national teams and 24 coaches under his management. The seeds of his South African visit will, hopefully, bear fruit in the time that lies ahead, for South Africa has surely been visited by a tennis doyen and professional of the highest calibre.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gary

    Mar 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    ‘I hope ANC/SACP/COSATU/BDS dont harass him’

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