Tennis scholar pushes changes and diversity in sport
01 March 2022
A University of East London (UEL) tennis scholar has been recognised for his work to promote diversity within the sport through working with disadvantaged children.
Arum Akom, who is studying a Masters in Sports Management, features in 'Causing a Racket - Exploring Britain's black tennis scene', a new video by youth platform Guap.
Arum, who is head coach at the Butterfly Tennis Club, Camberwell Grove, is passionate about increasing the numbers of young black players and making positive changes in the community.
Arum explains why he is motivated to increase diversity within the sport. He said, "I am from a disadvantaged background myself, and my parents didn't have the finances themselves to pay for tennis lessons. However, I was lucky enough to get free lessons in Camberwell through the club's project, and I progressed up the ranks to become a county player.
Now, I want to give back to as many children as possible. To get to the top of the game, it all comes down to finance. That is the barrier even when the talent and drive is there. Since the pandemic, there has been an increased interest in tennis, and I am passionate about helping young black players get involved in the game, particularly where they feel it is not the sport for them."
Arum's tennis club uses club funds to offer bursaries to disadvantaged young players, and there is now more of a balance at the club, he says.
As well as playing for UEL's competitive tennis team, Arum uses his UEL Masters experience in his work as a high performance coach, including at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton for their university team. Arum's ultimate goal is to become a high performance coach at the highest levels of professional tennis. He is currently being coached and mentored by self-taught high performance coach Barry Bartley, who is teaching Arum the fundamentals of the game using the Simple Science method!
"It is so nice to see the bond between a parent and child as they develop on court. I want to give parents and children that opportunity while recognising diversity in tennis," Arum adds.
The Guap video merges fashion and tennis, and Arum features in it after answering a call out on social media.
His other goal as part of his personal brand 'Accomplish Anything' is to build a tennis centre in Uganda, where his roots lie. In December, he attended meetings with the Uganda Tennis Association and is currently looking for sponsors for a centre for adults and children alike.
"During the national lockdown in February 2021, I managed to go to Kampala and work with the children from a charity called Tennis For All Uganda (TFAU). TFUA seek to change lives, one game at a time, through structured tennis programs. They empower, mobilise, and educate children from the slums of Kampala by offering tennis, health education and social support. This was a wonderful experience as the children really appreciated the coaching, something which they don't get often.
"This also allowed me to get a better understanding of the current situation of tennis in Uganda. Following this, I visited the Lugogo Tennis Complex which is also situated in Kampala which is the main tennis centre in Kampala. I met with a few of the coaches at the club, and explained my plans to develop tennis in Uganda which they loved and want to be a part of," Arum adds.
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