Hat Fund Global Initiative: HABARI UGANDA

A group from the HAT FUND (HF) just returned from visiting Uganda and we can safely say that the trip was an eye-opener. We were amazed by the warmth in which we were welcomed in spite of the disparity in the life we lead in U.S. to the life that Africans lead.

Cover Shot-Without DateThe aspirations of the youth in Africa are no different from youth anywhere else in the world. Very simply, they seek to better their lives. According to a McKinsey Report “Finding opportunities for young people is a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population — more than 600 million young people — is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability.” (Source: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/)

Indeed the HF community is extremely motivated by the above and that’s because at HF, our credo has always been that when you open up a child’s world to knowledge, skill, and aspiration, you open up a world of opportunity for the child and that makes a better world for all of us.

There are many challenges in Africa and each of them needs to be tackled simultaneously in several ways by several. One proven way to tackle those challenges and promote development is through sports; the intensity with which any society engages itself in sport can be a measure of the society’s overall health and development. Even the United Nations has recognized that sports can be a tool of development. There is, in fact, a Special Adviser on Sport for Development in the Office of the UN’s Secretary-General.

So, what’s our action plan? It is commonly said that there are several ways to peel an orange, so we will do what we do best – we will use the sport of tennis as the medium to provide African youth with the window of opportunity to break-out from the cycles of generational poverty. However, because we only have a limited management bandwidth and financial means, we will begin in Uganda.

Our plan for Uganda is to engage ourselves at several levels. At one level, we will provide training to a greater number of deserving Ugandan children and at another level we will educate Ugandan tennis coaches so that they in turn may be better trained to coach their wards. For our proposed engagement in Africa, our inspiration and confidence is drawn largely from our hands-on experience in the life of a Ugandan youth, John Lutaaya, whom we have written about in one of our earlier Blogs (“Serve and Return”, January 2016)

This proposed initiative would see us engaged in Uganda in the following ways:

  •  Conduct coaching workshops and, youth clinics and certification courses for Ugandan tennis coaches
  •  Continue our on-site consulting and advisory services to add value to existing Youth Tennis Programs. Tena Academy, Kampala is our initial program partner
  • Popularize the sport of tennis and broadcast the benefits of playing the game in communities identified as needing a sport activity
  • Provide support, upgrades and sustenance to tennis programs already existing in the communities and add further playing capacity where possible. Support will include donating essential playing gear, consumables, transportation, school fee subsidies and advice on maintaining the gear and the courts

In our assessment, the training of coaches will be fundamental and of extremely strategic importance to the success of our mission. Our effort will be to identify coaches through tennis associations and federations, even if they possess only a semblance of knowledge of coaching tennis. We will share our knowledge (in tennis coaching) in order to bridge the deficiencies in their existing coaching methods. Just to give an example, it could be something as simple as teaching those coaches to use smaller courts and slower tennis balls with beginners. Our support will include help in preparing the right kind of courts, using the right kind of racquets, balls and coaching aids, athletic training, body conditioning and prevention of injuries commonly associated with playing tennis.

Parallel to building up coaching capacity, we will be equally focused on discovering Ugandan talent seeking to learn tennis. Each student will not only be taught how to correctly play tennis but more importantly they will be mentored on developing skills and imbibed with knowledge (for example: interpersonal and relationship management skills and responsible citizenship) that will bring them success even off the tennis-court.

As you can well imagine, creating this reservoir of human capital will need funds. Let us not kid ourselves into believing that Ugandans can afford to pay for all this learning. The World Bank estimates that 72% of the African youth population lives on less than $2 a day to help their families, 30% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work (Source: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/). Therefore unless there is a promise of decent living and meals-on-the-table, it would be foolishly ambitious of us to expect Ugandan youth to join our programs.

The children are living in such dire circumstances that it is not enough to simply convince them, and their parents, of the big picture of tomorrow but they require convincing that even their needs of today are provided for. It is therefore our mission at HAT FUND that every deserving child should be enabled to choose our program over the drudgery of working for a subsistence wage. We can only do this by ensuring that when a child chooses our tennis program over choosing to go elsewhere to work, that child’s living requirements are taken care of.

We have judged that by far the greatest value will be added to Ugandan communities if we focused our initiative in Ugandan soil itself rather than by embedding Ugandan youth in U.S. facilities. At the apex, the HAT FUND will partner with High Altitude Tennis, LLC in executing the various parts of this initiative. At the grassroots level, Hat Fund will partner with Ugandan coaching institutions (like Tena Academy and others) to bring the greatest good for tennis enthusiasts and novices alike. The ultimate aim is that the sport may provide joy, financial independence and recognition to the Ugandans.

To support this initiative, HF is already adequately prepared with motivated and trained tennis coaches to conduct train-the-trainer workshops and clinics. However to fund our initiative to build the coaching capacity (infrastructure and teaching resources) in Uganda as well as support the children’s basic needs (meals, transportation, and school fee subsidies) we will need the support of benefactors, sponsors and contributors. Therefore, over the next several months, we will be organizing fundraisers and working to develop partnerships to garner funds for our engagement in Uganda.

Contributed by A. Adeni with L. Segelke

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To learn more about how you can help or to make a donation please contact us at

W: www.thehatfund.org

E: HFsponsor@thehatfund.org

P: (303) 968-7729


Twitter: @thehatfund

Facebook: The HAT FUND, Inc.

A Fighting Spirit Never give-up

I want to tell you the story of one of our remarkable students Miss-P. Miss-P is an ambitious student who has been with HFAC since it’s inception. I remember Miss-P’s first practice vividly to this day as she enchanted us all as a smiling, ambitious 6th grader. I will never forget that one specific moment during one of our very challenging fitness sessions ran by our Lead Fitness Expert, Michael Farrington. Ten minutes into the fitness portion of practice Miss-P was as white as a ghost, looked pale and seemed exhausted. One of our experts grew concerned and approached her to see if she needed a pause or a full stop break at which she said, “Nope, I’m good” and bravely continued with her fitness exercises.

Miss P, High Altitude Academy
Miss P at  High Altitude Tennis Academy, Denver, Colorado

A brave little fighter she is, and eventually made it to the last drill of the fitness session where we were doing wall sits. Then, Miss-P’s legs were shaking and tears were welling up in her eyes as she resolutely rejected the idea of quitting. When the session was over, it took her nearly 15 minutes for her to recover from one of the toughest fitness sessions she had ever experienced at her young age. The entire staff was impressed by the will power, enthusiasm and passion Miss-P presented. On the other hand, we were also worried that the intense fitness session would scare her away from her future practice sessions and further development. That is, until we all noticed her walking proudly to the car alongside her parents with a big smile on her face… she realized that she had just completed something immensely challenging which had made her better. She was profoundly satisfied… it was obvious, as she had accomplishment and satisfaction written all over her face. Her father, Pete [a former competitive rugby player], would later describe our program to others who were interested as “this place is not for sissies” … Miss-P surely is not a sissy!

Miss-P continued to return day after day improving her game and her fitness to levels she had never experience before. She was ALWAYS completely focused on what would help her improve to eventually play college tennis, and not distracted by what would give her instant short-term results. This focus was highlighted during some of her first tournaments as an HFAC player. Leading up to the tournament Miss-P had been working hard on improving her serve, and like most players who have worked on improvements in their game, she failed miserably the first few times she put them into action under the pressure of a tennis match. Actually, she could hardly make a serve in the box… yet she kept trying. She was swinging through her serve focusing on perfecting her motion confidently, with proper technique. A focus on perfection, which she knew would pay off in the future. That day, Miss-P had a choice, and she chose to think forward and be patient in her development. Which is, you must agree, very wise and quite rare for her age. Through her resiliency Miss-P worked out the kinks and went on to eventually winning three tournaments in a row! Her game was just thriving and things were looking up, way up!

Throughout my life, I have rarely seen someone as happy and satisfied as Miss-P was at the end of her winning that first tournament. She has personally entrenched her parents and the entire HF Community in a vibrating circle of satisfaction, pride and profound joy. Later, Miss-P began to become less confident in her movement and began to play with a little less balance than we were use to seeing from her. You see, one thing I purposely failed to mention was that Miss-P, previous to our program, had fought another battle with the tissue in her brain.

At age 5 she developed a brain tumor and had it successfully removed [the procedure, performed by the exceptional staff at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado is called a craniotomy and required Miss-P to endure 4 surgeries over 2 days]. Sadly, the malicious tumor had returned and Miss-P would have to once again return to the operating room.

When Miss-P awoke from her second round of surgeries she noticed something was wrong. She had lost her coordination to all the muscles on the right side of her body. Furthermore, she had trouble eating, her vision was blurry and she couldn’t write. Miss-P couldn’t walk, run or jump much less play tennis. Luckily, in Miss-P’s heart and brain, these predicaments and constraints had a curious side effect… Miss-P challenged herself and she immediately went to work. She wholeheartedly welcomed her rigorous therapy at the Children’s Hospital and she worked hard. Yes, she did, even though the doctors warned her that her remarkable progress might eventually plateau.

It was not surprising to see Miss-P returning to the tennis court. Except, things were much tougher this time around. All of the fundamentals, techniques and tactics she had learned she would have to start to relearn, without the expectation that she would ever become a great tennis player. She had hit rock bottom with her tennis when she tried out for her High School tennis team that year. Pre-surgery she would have been one of the top singles players for the team, and now to her surprise and disappointment she was on the bottom tier playing mainly Junior Varsity. This determination provided Miss-P the sour reality that her dream of playing college tennis was not in the cards. She was devastated.

Miss-P even considered quitting her favorite sport for a while, taking prolonged breaks to try rowing, basketball, and other activities. However, she couldn’t get away from the feeling that she was missing out on all that tennis had given to her. She craved the day to day challenges and improvements where she was able to notice positive changes in her fitness and tennis skills.

Thankfully, Peyton has returned to the court where she now plays 4-5 days a week in the same challenging program with elite junior tennis players from Colorado and all around the world with that basic goal and expectation that she will improve each day, one day at a time, slowly, passionately…patiently.

Miss-P teaches us that this is not simply about tennis, but really it’s about all the lessons that tennis and any other competitive sport can teach us all in order to be highly successful in any endeavor. I, with 100% conviction, believe that Peyton, due to her ambition, passion, resiliency, and phenomenal character will be one of tomorrow’s prolific leaders. At HFAC, we say all the time to each and every student accepted into our program… you are whom you hang around, and we are tremendously honored to have the opportunity to be around Miss-P and such a wonderful community of students, parents, and coaches.

-Ryan Segelke, CEO of High Altitude Tennis, LLC and HF Academy Director