Giving back to the sport – Dineshkanthan Thangarajah

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At a time when five-time Sri Lankan national Tennis champion Dineshkanthan Thangarajah was awaiting his international entry after excelling in the local circuit, he hit a dead end, due to the lack of funds.

To counter the challenge ahead of him, Dinesh set foot on an untrodden path taking up coaching and has created an initiative of his own to develop the future of the sport in Sri Lanka.

Soon after winning his first title, Dinesh had the privilege of representing Sri Lanka internationally in the World Series, but the lack of funding and financial backing for him to participate in the international circuit was a huge obstacle blocking him in his professional career.

Taking a decision at that point, he came up with the concept of coaching to satisfy both his intentions of giving something back to the sport as well as earning a living to enable him to progress forward in his professional tennis career.

“I won my first nationals back in 2011, so after nationals and playing Davis Cup for six years, I was wondering what to do next.”

“First option for me was to go international, and the next question was who is going to finance me? When I couldn’t find enough sponsors to go international, I wanted to do part-time coaching. The thing I know to make the kids interested, so that I could use that money to travel abroad to play.”

From humble beginnings, Dinesh began his coaching career with only a single student and now has over 40 young players being groomed to be prospective competitors in the national circuit.

“Moving forward I wanted to give these kids something that I didn’t have. So it came to me as why not I provide what I lacked as a player to the Sri Lankan kids whoever is here, who cannot go abroad and play international tournaments.”

Dinesh mentions the school of thought of creating a separate tennis academy came afterwards, when he joined up with his school-mate and playing partner Kevin Markhandarajah who was also involved in coaching. Coming up with the idea of getting together as a unit to take the coaching structure forward, Dineshkanthan Tennis School was born unofficially in September 2013.

“I started this with one player, Chinthaka Shevin to launch the academy off in September (2013) and after that, we have moved to tremendous heights.”

Dineshkanthan ThangarajahThe Dineshkanthan Tennis School now caters to junior tennis players between the ages of 5 and 16 and also has opened its doors to any national level tennis players who want to fine tune their game.

Dinesh’s most recent triumph as a coach came through reigning National Women’s Champion Thisuri Molligoda, who emerged victorious to take home the Women’s Singles title for the second successive year.

“By the time she came to me, she had not won a national yet, she has had different weaknesses, and I have worked with her for two years. She has won the nationals for two years, playing with us.”

He accredits the success of his initiative to his coaches and the staff who has been with him in this short journey of three years. A firm believer in hard work, he believes that  real effort can convert an ordinary talent to an extraordinary one with some assistance by an experienced coach. Therefore, he has made it certain that the academy he runs will only receive the assistance of coaches who were one time players, who have in court experience.

“Our coaches are all players who have all played the sport so they know what they know and how to groom a player from the junior category.”

In Sri Lanka, Dinesh has achieved everything that a tennis player can, from being the junior champion to being the national champion for four years. Beyond the playing court, his journey in the shoes of a coach is still in the beginning phases.

“I want my kids to achieve something more than what I’ve done.”

Looking for the long run, Dinesh looks at nurturing his players under him to be better than the national champion himself which would be to go ahead to play in the international circuit and is ready to provide the necessary exposure to anyone who dares to take up the challenge.