Battling Bishops tennis twosome collects shoes for Africa
Inspired by memories of youngsters patching their own shoes from a cut-up bicycle tire in South Africa, a North Carolina Wesleyan coach and a student-athlete are the driving force behind a community-service initiative known as “Tennis Shoes 4 Africa.”
Junior tennis player Ashley Ball worked with first-year Battling Bishops coach Dominic Modise (who grew up in Mmabatho, South Africa) in launching the initiative. The player and coach collaborated in building a Web site, and both hope to travel to the coach’s hometown later this year to deliver used shoes, tennis racquets and balls.
“I was sincerely touched by coach Modise’s strength…not just with tennis, but with life,” says Ball, a history and secondary education major who joined the project created by Modise and serves as its first “ambassador.”
“I grew up in Mmabatho and my parents were not well off,” says Modise, who came to America to play tennis at Central Alabama Community College and then at Hawaii, and is a former head coach at Nicholls State. He became head coach at North Carolina Wesleyan last fall after serving as an assistant women’s coach at Colorado.
“During the Apartheid era life was not easy, to say the least,” he writes in a message on the Tennis Shoes 4 Africa Web site. “I remember playing tennis until my toes were out. My friends and I used to cut a bicycle tire to patch our shoes. It was a way of life for us.
“We played with dead balls. The only time we ever used new balls was when we played in a tournament. Sometimes we had to take break from playing because we couldn’t afford strings. But, this didn’t stop us from dreaming and aiming higher. I always dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player and/or playing college tennis.”
Modise hopes to put shoes and equipment in the hands of aspiring tennis players in his hometown, where he says children struggle “with effects of poverty and disease” every day.
Ball hopes to write an honors thesis at North Carolina Wesleyan about the upcoming trip with Modise to South Africa.
“To hear about his youth in South Africa, how he never played with tennis shoes, and ended up coming here to America where he played and coached college tennis, really made me think,” she writes at the Web site.
The Web site (www.tennisshoes4africa.org) provides an address where shoes may be sent, and also solicits sponsors and volunteers for the project.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association