by Nadia Gramielden

John-Laffnie de Jager

On the ball

John-Laffnie de Jager inspire the youth
Tennis champion

John-Laffnie de Jager is known to most as a tennis champion, yet to those closest to him, he is so much more. Ubuntu did an interview with this sport star on the foundation he assists and the work it does. You can read the full interview in the June edition of Ubuntu.


What were your aspirations, growing up?

I always wanted to play rugby or cricket for the Springboks. Tennis was only my third sport of choice. When I was 12, I won an international tournament in New York and some of the previous winners were Boris Becker, Jimmy Connor, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. This made me realise that maybe I had a shot in tennis if I spent more time training for it.


What was the original thought behind forming a tennis academy?

When I was playing on the ATP Tour, I would spend only 10 weeks of the year in South Africa. Whenever I was back home, I used to go to small towns and host tennis clinics. Because I came from the small town of Ermelo, I knew that the kids in small towns don’t have the same opportunities as in the cities, and I wanted to give back.

It is still a long way to go to where we want to be, but the progress has been good.

 

What is the goal of the projects?

There are three arms of the foundation:

  • Akani: www.akani.co.za 
  • Murial Brand: www.murielbrand.co.za 
  • JL Tennis Akademie: www.jlstennis.com

We don’t run Akani and Muriel Brand, but we support them financially and help to get other people involved who can play a role in making them better. When we have fund-raisers, the money will go to all projects. 

Over the last 16 months, we really started to push hard to get the tennis academy more involved and to help kids. We have an Australian programme called Hot Shots which we have adopted and this teaches them all the skills they need. This is not to produce better tennis players, but better skilled people. Kids aged between 4 and 10 are involved in this programme.

The dream is to raise enough money so we can select kids to be part of the foundation and give them all the financial help, coaching, international exposure, physical and mental training that we can. It is very hard to make it in sport, but we would like to give the kids who are prepared to work hard, the best opportunity.


Any success stories?

Ilze Hattingh is the only player who has a full scholarship at the foundation. She became part of our system when she was 14. In 2012 she was the u/16 and u/18 African Junior Champion in singles and doubles. She is ranked in the top 60 in the international junior world rankings. She has represented South Africa as a junior and also as a member of the senior Fed Cup Team.

We are getting into a position to help more kids, so the foundation will be conducting clinics and it already has scouts attending tournaments to identify talented kids. 

We are also involved in Bothaville with a tennis development programme. In the next couple of months, we will also increase our involvement in this great cause.

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