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Advantage Yacub

Advantage Yacub

Issue 5 May / Jun 2004

First featured in issue 5 - May/June 2004

Click here to go to the Issue 5 archives 


Summer time is when tennis reaches fever pitch thanks to the Wimbledon championships. The annual tennis championships attract over 470,000 fans to the game with over 1.8 billion viewers worldwide. Despite being such a popular sport there are very few Muslims involved in tennis. Nadia Anwer talks to tennis coach Nazir Yacub to investigate the reasons behind this.  


Nazir works as a Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) coach and has been involved in the sport for the past fifteen years. Always a fan of racquet sports, Nazir became interested in tennis when a tennis club opened near his home. “Initially I just wanted to play for fun, I had no idea I would stay in the sport that long. The deeper I got into the game the more I seemed to be learning.”Despite constraints on his time Nazir wanted to remain involved in the game as he felt that it had a lot to offer him. “Tennis taught me mental awareness, determination, how to organise myself, and overcome hurdles. These were the initial things it taught me and then you start to learn about nutrition and warm up exercises and the means to look after yourself. To play sport you have to be fit.” Realising that tennis had altered his health and mental wellbeing Nazir decided to train to be a coach so that others could benefit from his experience and knowledge. “Over the last year and a half I took my coaching course and got my certificate sorted out with the LTA. You are only allowed to coach if you are fully licensed. The basic certificate is a DCA which is the Development Coach Award and is the minimum requirement for coaching which is what I have.”

Currently Nazir is coaching an up and coming player called Tim Patience whose talent he spotted along with two other coaches five years ago. “We used to tell people about him but we didn’t get any support at all. Only 5 months ago he was practicing in the Queen’s club and Dick Cobart, who is head of tennis now in Queen’s, spotted him and asked who is this boy and where did he come from and then realised he was from our club. Now he’s travelling with the LTA in Sweden at the moment. I’m quite pleased that despite all the negativity we received we spotted his talent and now we know what to look for.”

This is the typical response from Nazir; he takes everything in his stride and looks for the positive in each situation. This is where he feels that Islam has contributed to his mind set and kept him grounded. “I teach my kids that there is no need to be arrogant and that the game should always be put into perspective. Everything in moderation. You can go from arrogance to depression and vice versa but it’s a road to nowhere. I think for me the overlap was coming from both sides, Islam to tennis and tennis to Islam.”

“Islam helped me to keep the sport in perspective but it’s through tennis that I realised these things and applied them to my life. You can win or lose but you should just move on. Similarly in the shop you can have a bad day or a good day but you just have to thank Allah and get on with it and pray for contentment as you can get that no matter what you are doing.”

Nazir agreed that there were not enough Muslims involved in the sport. What is the reason for such low participation? “There is a bad image around the game. The general image is that it is for middle class elite people. It needs to go back to the streets and get its hands dirty.”

In order to encourage the younger generations Nazir has a simple but practical solution. “There should be the situation of a brick wall with a line drawn across it at the level of the net. The children should be given out free balls and racquets so they can play it in the playground. Every school should do this so kids will start playing. The best thing is tha it will improve motor skills and flexibility and hand-eye co-ordination. These skills should be learned early on. Playing will improve their speed and confidence. It’s like learning to walk and run. It’s not like badminton or squash, I think it’s much more superior.”

Nazir feels that children have much to benefit from learning to play tennis at a young age but realises there are problems. “It’s not easy for them. There are a lot of costs involved. You need money and facilities. You need balls, racquets and access to courts. This is where local councils need to get involved and provide subsidised facilities to encourage children to take part, especially in inner-city areas.”

There is also a problem with family support holding back young Muslims. “I think children should be encouraged by parents as it can help with physical and character development and keep them fit. Sports can also be good professions to be in, the problem is that people don’t realise that you can have a successful career in sports, not just professions such as medicine.”

The LTA are running an initiative which provides free access to facilities to attract people to the sport. The Do More Than Just Watch programme runs from April 3rd till September 26th. During this period 1240 affiliated clubs and schools around England will open their doors to the public for one or two days and allow them full access. Despite encouraging statistics from the previous year of participation, Nazir feels that it is not nearly enough. “It only lasts for a few days so at the end of it people who don’t have the money, even if they have the interest, can’t continue in the sport. I think the LTA need to do more as well as local councils”

The basic message from Nazir is that tennis is a challenging and exciting sport to be in. it improves mental skills and health along with physical fitness. Tennis can change your perspective on everyday challenges and make you a more rounded person. It can also remind you of the role of Islam and its teachings; discipline, patience, challenging oneself and remembering your real goals. So when your sitting at home glued to the BBC watching the players sweating it out at Wimbledon remember: don’t just watch it, play it.


Tips to get started in tennis:

1. The first thing you need to do is find a court near you. You can find them in sports centres, schools or tennis clubs. Look them up in directory enquiries or you can use a court detector on the LTA website.

2. Once you have found somewhere to play you need to get the right equipment. This includes trainers, a tennis racquet and a ball.

3. That’s it, you are ready to go. There is the option of coaching lessons to give you an all round grounding or help you to target your weaknesses.

4. Lessons can be taken individually or in groups. They cost from £15-£30 for an individual and as little as £4 per person in a group.

5. Ensure that the coaches are qualified and accredited by the LTA. You can contact the County Development Officers (CDO) for details.

6. The LTA have a ratings scheme, much like the

golf handicap, which allows your playing level to be identified when you play in tournaments and your progress to be charted. In order to be part of the ratings scheme you have to join the LTA membership scheme (called the LTA Advantage Club).


Further details are available on the LTA website -

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