Young tennis sensation on the rise

Portia Mlilo
GOING PLACES: Kevin Kao Lenkopane

Motswana tennis player impresses in the US

Botswana tennis player Kao Kevin Lenkopane who is currently based in the United States of America scooped the best player of the week in college tennis last week while his team was named team of the week.

The 21-year-old Kanye native is one of the tennis recipients for the 2021 Botswana National Sports Commission Elite Scholarship fund, which will allow him to study and play college tennis at the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas in the US.

University of Ozarks is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and competes in the American Southwest Conference against schools from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Lenkopane who is currently the university tennis club captain has closed eight single wins and ten double wins this season.

Our Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with this ambitious young player about his career and future plans.

Q. What inspired you to play tennis?

I wanted to follow my dad (Bafana Lenkopane) footsteps in Softball when I was at Orapa Junior Secondary School.

- Advertisement -

I didn’t enjoy it that much and he inspired me to try out tennis.

Little did I know that today I will be studying abroad through sports

Q. Who discovered your talent?

Coach Macsha Makhumalo who was coaching me at Orapa tennis club.

He was patient enough to work with me even though I had started tennis at a late age and didn’t have that much of a work ethic since I was overweight.

He taught me discipline and instilled patience in me from the age of 14-19.

In a few months I had lost weight.

- Advertisement -

Q. How did you end up playing in the US?

I am a recipient of the Botswana Sports Commission elite scholarship.

I am currently pursuing a Degree in Business Administration with minors in Psychology and English.

The selection criteria involves consideration of one’s performances in both academic and athletic disciplines.

I knew from form 4 that I wanted to compete at a higher level than local tennis and I was going to be able to do that through college tennis as I get to compete with diverse and competitive players.

This motivated me to work hard, be focused and determined to improve my play in every local competition.

Q. How much did relocating to the US help in terms of improving your play?

It helped me out a lot.

- Advertisement -

I get to practice with experienced players on the team almost every day.

They push me to become better every single day on court and off the court.

They have the best facilities here and the best coaches.

Q. What are some of your greatest achievements as a player?

My greatest achievement in tennis has to be representing myself, my family and the nation of Botswana in the USA.

I came here in January last year and after eight months the coach selected me to be the captain of our university team and I would say it is one of the achievements.

The other achievement would be when I was awarded player of the week in the doubles and singles during the Academics Awards 2022-2023 College Sports Communicators Academic- All District teams’ athletic awards.

All this achieved in the 7 years since I started playing tennis.

Q. And the other end of the scale, what are some of your lowlights?

It is always a mental battle stepping on the court and pushing myself to perform better.

I have also lost a big match when the team was counting and relying on me to carry them to victory.

I was very disappointed.

Q. What do you think can be done to improve tennis’ status locally?

I definitely believe that encouraging more students to participate in tennis, especially in government schools would boost the status and participation of tennis locally.

Also having a business community investing in the development of sports and sponsoring tournaments, which will improve competition among tennis players.

The Association should also do more in marketing tennis, make it more attractive to young people and those aspiring to join the sport.

Botswana has talent and we just need proper facilities and more qualified coaches to identify and nurture talent.

Q. You were awarded player of the week both as an individual and a team doubles, what does that mean to you and how do you feel about it?

Being awarded player of the week and being a part of All East First team in singles and doubles gave me the confidence and proved that I could be victorious in battle against some of the toughest players in our conference.

Young tennis sensation on the rise
GOING PLACES: Kevin Kao Lenkopane

I was pretty impressed with my performance this season but will definitely perform better in the future.

It means I am doing something right and making my country proud.

Q. What makes a great athlete?

A great athlete consists of patience, discipline and determination.

Being able to be accountable for one’s own actions and having the ability to show sportsmanship.

Being able to find joy in the process of getting better every day makes a great athlete.

You must follow and take your coach’s instructions.

Listen and allow your teammates and coach to give you feedback after every game even during training.

Q. What advice can you give to those aspiring to play tennis at the highest level?

It is attainable no matter the circumstances.

I highly believe that hard work and commitment is critical to attaining success in tennis.

You must also love and have passion for the sport as it will make you enjoy the game and aim higher.

Sports is no longer just a game, it creates many opportunities and it is now a career that one can earn a living with.

Q. What else are you doing apart from playing tennis?

I am studying at the University of the Ozarks and spend my leisure time lifting weights to get stronger.

Other than that I try my best to hang out with my friends to make memories during my spare time.

Q. What are your career future plans?

I plan on attaining and completing my degree and leading my team to a championship as a team captain.

I also want to see myself representing Botswana in one of the biggest international tennis events and winning a medal.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

My parents Bafana and Masego Lenkopane have been my biggest inspiration my whole life.

They gave me all the necessary support and I am where I am today because of them.

My current coach Bishop Bass is an excellent role model too!

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I plan on attending a softball game and supporting my little sister.

The sport that I did not enjoy as a player.

Hahaha (he laughs) I found people I call family here.

A family away from home.

Share This Article
Leave a comment