The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Thulani Hove's Dilemma

YOUNG Thulani Hove is facing a dilemma.

Hove is a multi-talented young Zimbabwean athlete who is currently based in New Jersey in the

United States where he takes part in two sporting disciplines -- tennis and soccer.

The former pupil of Hartmann House in Harare is presently at crossroads, as he doesn't know whether to pursue tennis or soccer as a professional career overseas.

In fact, Hove, young brother to another promising United States-based Zimbabwean tennis player Vusa, has just turned 17 and just like his brother, started playing tennis at the University of Zimbabwe under the tutelage of his father, Emmanuel, who was a lecturer at the college.

Thulani was introduced to tennis by his father at the tender age of four.

His father, Emmanuel, recently narrated how he initially introduced his two sons to tennis.

"I played in the Harare Mashonaland Social League for the UZ and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (at Morris Depot). I would bring the boys along with me and knock with them.

"They got very interested in the game because they enjoyed playing (tennis) with me.

"At about five years old, Thulani was coached by the late Frank Muyererwa at Zimbank Sports Club while Vusa was also coached by Frank from Grade Five."

Emmanuel Hove said Thulani and Vusa started competing in the local junior tennis tournaments from the Under-10 to16 age-groups before he left Zimbabwe for the United States in 2010 after he got a lectureship at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Thulani was one of Zimbabwe's top two Under-16 players when he left the country.

He was in Form Three when he left St George's College in Harare for New Jersey's Highland Park School in 2010.

The following year, Highland Park won its first ever NJ State Tennis Championship with Thulani playing first singles as a junior year student.

In fact, Highland Park won the NJSIAA Group One tennis championship for the first time in 2011 after defeating Leonia 3-1 with Thulani setting the tone with a dominant 6-0, 6-2 victory over Eric Davidson at Mercer Park.

In 2012, Highland Park were defeated in the finals of the State Championship. They expect to win it this year.

Thulani, who is also a talented soccer player, is currently in his senior year and is planning to enroll at a Division I college.

But that's where his problem comes in.

He doesn't know whether to apply for a tennis or soccer scholarship in the United States although just like his older brother, Vusa, he plans to study a science/mathematics major in college.

Thulani has also been playing USTA (United States Tennis Association) tournaments and in August 2012, he won a tournament in the Under-16s at Mendham in New Jersey.

"The level of competition here is much higher than in Zimbabwe because there are many more junior players in New Jersey. Most tennis matches are played indoors because of extreme weather conditions.

"He (Thulani) will continue to play more USTA tournaments before going to college. Thulani trains privately at East Brunswick Racquet Club in New Jersey," Emmanuel Hove said.

Thulani is also an All Conference Soccer player at Highland Park School where he has already won numerous awards after some outstanding performances on the football pitch.

He was recently chosen for the Greater Middlesex Conference Division All-Star boys soccer team for the 2012-2013 season in New Jersey.

And this prompted Thulani's coach at Highland Park, Roig, to write a letter to him, praising him for his leadership qualities.

Part of the letter that Roid recently wrote to Thulani read: "You were a major reason why our team was a success this year (in 2012). You had the challenge of being an attacking midfielder with only one forward ahead of you. We relied on you to hold the ball, distribute it wide, get in the attack against talented competition in every game.

"Our offense scored the most goals in the history of the school in the Blue Division, thanks to you.

"(You were) in the first team, led our team in assists and second in goals . . . you had an amazing year. Yet I was impressed with your leadership. Always early to practice (sessions), you work hard, respect everyone, inspire with your words and bring game intensity.

"All these traits will make you be a champion in the game of life. It was an honour to coach you. Thanks for all you have done."

Thulani started playing soccer at St. Michael's Prep School in Harare when he was in Grade Two.

He was also a 100m sprint champion at St. Michael's.

He continued playing soccer at Hartmann House where he was coached by the school's headmaster Paul Nenjerama and top local junior soccer coach Bekhimpilo Nyoni.

But he would still be going for his tennis lessons at Zimbank Sports Club in Harare.

At St. George's College, Thulani played both soccer and tennis and won colours in tennis.

"Thulani is a very promising youngster.

"In fact, Vusa and Thulani were also very good in cricket but I made them leave it at St. Goerge's College because the selection process was not good and was frustrating to Vusa and Thulani.

"At least in tennis, individual results count and one can argue using the results. Look at Vusa's tennis results and what we are quietly telling Tennis Zimbabwe," Emmanuel Hove said.

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