Kwame's Tennis Army: Facing Diversity through Sport

Words By Tamara Viner and Iman Jama, Transcript by Rya de Leon

Australia is often described as a multicultural country that has embraced significant levels of migration throughout its more recent history.

UTS student, Tamara Viner, met with Kwame Wilson, who was born in Ghana and is currently residing in Blacktown, to discuss how migrant communities in Western Sydney are integrating into Australia.

Kwame founded the tennis coaching organisation, Kwame’s Tennis Army, and is a great example of how sport facilitates the integration of migrants, in a country where, according to 2012 Australian Bureau of Statics, children from non-English speaking families have a 24% lower participation rate in sport. The tennis group was formed in 2016 and primarily aims to introduce tennis to the African community of Western Sydney.

The Tennis Army encourages African youth involvement in tennis, which is often regarded as an Anglo-Celtic dominated sport. Kwame Wilson advocates that the ultimate goal is to “develop a player that can represent Africa in the Australian Open.”

Sport and physical activity play a crucial role in Australian communities by promoting social inclusion and community well-being. However, sport can also promote exclusion and place unnecessary barriers to greater community participation.

Cultural and racial stereotypes play a part in forming stigma on African sport players, due to conceptions that African athletes can only dominate in certain fields.

For Kwame, this manifests through visible African representation in sports such as athletics and soccer, while other sports such as tennis or gymnastics have very few African children participating, “one, [be]cause it costs a lot, but two there’s just no examples for the kids.”

After two or three years of learning under his own coach, Geoff Brackin, Kwame had a realisation, “There’s a market, if you tap into the African community, to get more African kids involved, that is something you can do, that is something that could possibly go in the good light.”

When challenged by the lack of representation and cultural difficulties, Kwame’s Tennis Army focuses on the positives, and uses their background to their advantage, as it distinguishes them in the crowd.

Kwame notably says when faced with stereotypes, “I won’t let it stop me… if you are a migrant, it usually a positive to be the migrant,” due to the unique experiences, skills, and personality that migrants introduce to Australia, he explains.

Kwame is a long-term resident of the Western Sydney area. Although he is “not on the ground anymore”, as he spends less time amongst the urban scenes of Blacktown, and more time on the tennis court, he notes that the population is expanding immensely, and is “much bigger than when I moved in.”.

Kwame commented, “ [Blacktown has] changed big time…when we moved there Blacktown [was] where a lot of Africans came”.

Kwame explains that the negative connotations with the town are no longer apparent, “it has changed culturally and how people interact. It previously it had a bad stigma of being a bad neighbourhood with a lot of fighting. Blacktown’s really changed persona since I’ve lived there.”

When asked if he had experienced personal discrimination as an African migrant in Blacktown, either subtly or overtly, Kwame pragmatically responded, “with African and Australian culture, there is always subtle jabs with different ethnicities and cultures…with the ‘N’ word in songs [or]…cultural appropriation”.

The Tennis Army illustrates how racial diversity is increasing in Sydney. The team teaches roughly forty children between six and seven years old, most of whom are from non-English speaking ethnicities.

Kwame attributes this to the multiculturally diverse area, that is Blacktown, additionally commenting that of the forty children, less than five are from an Anglo-Australian background.

Kwame strongly believes diversity, both in sport, and society in general, is highly important, as “it helps us people as a whole understand other people in a more complex way…engaging with kids from various backgrounds helps me to understand [what] works with one particular group of kids from one background.”

Moving forward, Kwame has international plans for his Army. He wants to expand to Ghana and get more girls involved in the sport. Kwame states, “with African girls there is a stigma, in general…in Ghana…a lot of girls generally don’t participate in sport”.

Using his experience from Western Sydney, Kwame hopes to “set something up in Ghana… get tennis as a sport people can participate in, and not be viewed as ‘rich person’s sport’, for girls also, for anybody who wants to play it, to spread it to make tennis a more inclusive sport

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