#shifttheculture, a simple hashtag with such deep meaning and purpose for Zimbabwean tennis player Takanyi Garanganga. More than just a mere motto to be spread and marketed on his social media, it provides a drive and central focus to both the way Garanganga plays tennis and lives his life.
Takanyi Garanganga’s Journey through Tennis
The ideas and beliefs behind Garanganga’s #shifttheculture hashtag movement are bigger than the simple belief that culture only relates to the social, political, and artistic characteristics of a region. Beyond those things, Garanganga believes that a shift in culture is a shift not only in one’s perspective, but in one’s connectivity to the world and energy around them. Eastern philosophies have been a developing interest of Garanganga’s. Over the course of the past few years, his study of Zen and other metaphysical concepts has influenced every aspect of his life, from sport, to how he tries to connect and change with the world around him. “…over the years my curiosity of how the universe operates excites me. So I found that in sound Zen shows some of these principles.” As this life view has found root in himself–it can be seen in his tennis by his outlook and physical applications. “ So in tennis you are always trying to be in the moment to enjoy the game. So in zen practice now is always now, you can’t go where you want to be now . So conscious breathing is a form of meditation (concentration) anchors that for me. But obviously coaches and other techniques can be used to achieve high level performance but I enjoy Zen approach.” This approach has been one of long development and practice that started many years ago for Garanganga at home in Africa.
Takanyi Garanganga was born and raised in Zimbabwe, a country that has been through much political and social change over the course of his 25 years. When Takanyi was little, tennis in the country was strong and vibrant as young people had players such as the Black family (Wayne, Byron, and Cara) to look up to, as well as the likes of Kevin Ullyet. The Blacks and Ullyet all found success on tour in doubles and singles. The success of these players helped create a “big buzz” about the sport in the country and raised the popularity of the game. As Garanganga points out, “Back in the 90s you could access tennis equipment and was played all over Zimbabwe even in schools. There was a well established junior program.” However, as those players aged and the struggle for political dominance between various factions played out across the country, both the accessibility and organization of the sport started to wane. He notes that today in Zimbabwe ” it [tennis] is for the families that are well off and still expensive. Federation used to help fund some trips for African Tournaments, but now players have to pay to participate to represent the country.” He even goes so far as to call the organization at the federation “terrible.”
While many would simply lament this lack of organization and access to a sport they love, Garanganga is different. #shifttheculture. In response to these obstacles, Garanganga, along with others of his support team, helped to create #Serve4Africa, an organization that seeks to help younger players on the continent break through. With a lack of organization in many tennis federations on the continent, and a lack of access, coaching, etc, breakthroughs are harder for young players. Garanganga himself left Zimbabwe at age 14 to help develop and hone his skills in the US, but knows that is not an option for so many young people, and shouldn’t have to be the only way to develop one’s game. Serve4Africa is “trying to develop programs around Africa cutting out the complications of funding strictly from African Tennis Federation until their structures are stable. Serve4Africa intends to help coaches and players understand that ITF Futures is not the highest level of professional tennis. There are different level of professional tournaments: ATP challengers, 250, 500, 1000 as well as WTA events which junior players should start participating in in order to create that mindset for breakthroughs more consistently.” It is hard to observe the difficulties that young tennis players face in both Zimbabwe and on the continent of Africa as a whole for Garanganga. One of the main focuses and problems that Serve4Africa tries to help with is educating coaches and young players about their options as a tennis player. “For example the coaches should have all the necessary information for a player to go to college for tennis or becoming a world class tennis coach. Now when the player is 20/21 and had been playing some money tournaments or collecting professional tournament prize money to take care of himself and now finds out the information how to get to school overseas, certain NCAA rules forbid him from entering and playing on the university’s team.” With limited educational and tennis options, young players are forced to live their lives on the Futures circuit (where purses can range anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000), trying to provide a living for themselves and often their families. Garanganga notes that Serve4Africa will “…be educating the players and coaches the necessary information to go on any path they choose.” #shifttheculture
The path that Garanganga has chosen for himself is one that has led him on a journey around the world pursuing his tennis career. When asked about what tennis has given Garanganga, he is characteristically thoughtful and grateful. “Tennis has given me the ability to travel the world. For instance the top ITF 20 junior players from the age of 16-18 would have traveled around the world twice and some people would never do that in their lifetime. More importantly is my ability to find myself with people from different types of cultures, relating with them or adapting and prospering in most of the environments I find myself in.”
As Garanganga looks forward in both his career and life, his goals for tennis and aspirations after life on the tour naturally reflect his beliefs and Eastern philosophies. “The main goal for me is just being alignment with myself. Satisfaction with the natural flow of things. Tennis is to shoot for top 10 at some point in my career.” Beyond his touring days, Garanganga hopes to see Serve4Africa continue to develop in meaningful ways. He will also continue to look inside himself for personal growth. “I would love to pay attention to my inner being and hopefully influence people easily in anything that they hold personally valuable.” Garanganga’s views on life and personhood are built upon study and application of a belief in oneness with the world around him. While many tennis professionals often come off as self centered and absorbed, their one focus being immediate results and ranking success, Garangana is breath of proverbial fresh air in that tennis, although important to him, is just one aspect of his life that connects with the happiness and satisfaction of all his other parts. Garanganga makes no big claims or promotions about his touring days or what he will do after. He doesn’t believe in putting himself in prescribed boxes. To him there is only one open box with numerous outcomes, a #shiftinculture from so many perspectives and actions that happen on the ATP tour. “I cannot be specific right now about life after my career because I wouldn’t want to sell myself short. There are limitless possibilities out there as long as you are passionate about them.”