2006 Junior development champion of the year: Bwana Chakar Simba
By Mark Winters
In a legendary town, Bwana Chakar Simba is a Los Angeles tennis program legend. For the past 13 years, “Chakar,” as he is known in the tennis community, has been at the Rogers Park facility, introducing youngsters to the game. For the eight years before that, he ran Amateur Athletic Foundation Southern California Tennis Association/National Junior Tennis League activities at both Rogers Park and Jim Gilliam Park.
And it’s Simba’s special “give them love” talent that has earned him recognition as RSI’s Junior Development Champion for 2006.
“I’ve worked with thousands of kids,” Simba says. “We have 150 in the year-round program, and at least 225 in the summer. We deal with kids between the ages of 7 and 17, but we have had them younger if an older brother or sister is in the program.” Simba uses Junior Team Tennis to move NJTL youngsters into the competitive arena.
Having taught school and been involved with the Department of Corrections, Simba understands kids. And working with Simba is more than about tennis — he provides direction for young lives, influencing their futures. Many in his programs have gone on to enjoy intercollegiate success at colleges such as Clark Atlanta, Howard, and Morehouse.
“You have to earn their trust,” says Simba. “A lot of instructors are, ‘It’s my way or no way.’ This doesn’t make a successful instructor. When I’ve come up with change, I’ve found a changed person.”
“Chakar is a great guy,” says Arlene Barco, the director of the AAFSCTA/NJTL program. “He puts a lot of kids through the program. And he makes it possible for kids to have someplace to go to all the time — after school and during the summer.”
Chakar Simba’s tips for success
- Get the parents involved. Simba offers parents a free lesson so they’ll bring the kids along.
- Get a commitment from the park director. Simba lets park directors know that he will work with them, not above them.
- When working with kids, be flexible and willing to improvise. “It’s made me a better person,” says Simba.
See all articles by Mark Winters
About the Author
Mark Winters, who played college and professional tennis, is a former Junior Davis Cup team and college coach. He spent time as a USTA clinician nationally and in the Middle East. He has written about the game for more than 25 years, with his stories appearing in Tennis Week and Florida Tennis as well as the Los Angeles Times and a host of international publications.