It’s Game-Set-Match in Botswana, Thanks to Two Engineering Students

While in the Southern African country of Botswana for a summer study-abroad course in thermodynamics, biomedical engineering majors Ben McClarren and Dan Hageman, along with course professor Dan Lacks, brought their love for the game of tennis with them.

McClarren, who is on the university’s tennis team, and Lacks, an avid tennis player, were planning on bringing a few racquets with them on the trip so their summer needn’t be without one of their favorite pastimes, and then donate the racquets at the end of the trip. Then, a week before departure, Lacks wondered if they shouldn’t expand their contribution.

“Professor Lacks threw out the idea of a last-minute tennis racquet drive,” said McClarren. “Dan and I thought this was a fantastic idea, and we ran with it from there.”

So, prior to departing for Botswana on Sunday, May 13, McClarren and Hageman led a drive in the Cleveland area and collected more than 75 tennis racquets and 150 tennis balls in addition to a tennis net and a stack of Spartan Tennis T-Shirts.

"Since the Botswana Tennis Association is a short distance from the University of Botswana, we were able to establish some good contacts to put a good plan in place," noted McClarren. "The head of the association directed us to schools to make our donations and hold clinics."

With their boxes full of racquets and tennis balls, McClarren and Hageman then began the 36-hour journey with their class to Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana.

Teaming with Botswana Davis Cup player Shingi Muzondiwa, the duo began their trip in the village of Lobatse, where they distributed tennis equipment and taught a clinic for local children. Next, the group visited the village of Kanye, where they gave a tennis demonstration to a crowd of more than 300 children. A bulk of the racquets that McClarren and Hagemen brought from America was then donated to the Botswana Tennis Association during a ceremony in Gaborone. The association will distribute the

racquets to tennis-playing children around the country who could not afford to purchase their own.

"This has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience," said McClarren. "It is nice to see that a simple game such as tennis can bring such joy to these kids. I hope to one day see them playing for Case Western Reserve."

Hageman reinforced the memorable nature of the experience. “From the songs the hundreds of school kids sang to us, to the valiant and often times embarrassing efforts that their teachers made to play tennis, each and every laugh, fist-pound and swing of the tennis racquet made that experience unforgettable,” he said. “During our clinics, nothing seemed to matter … not age, not skin colors and not tennis ability.”

Watch a highlights video of their clinic in Kanye: