Whānau commitment and dedication is the key to young Kalani Savage’s success. With just three years playing experience, 10-year-old Kalani has gone from strength to strength both physically and mentally.
Kalani's whanau plays a vital role in ensuring he participates in national competitions, including the most recent Hamilton Inter-regional competition and the Otumoetai Arborcare Tournament where he played in both the singles and doubles sections. Kalani and his partner took out the doubles section.
Last year, over a few months, the Te Teko youngster trialled for the Bay of Plenty tennis squad in Whakatane, Rotorua and Taupō. He was selected as the number one player for the team.
Kalani says positive thinking is important when he prepares for any tournament.
“I just have to think positive and keep working on my attitude,” he says.
With success, comes a great deal of training. This is something Kalani strives to achieve every week, with the help of his coach and whānau.
“I train every second day except the weekends, before school and after school,” he adds.
Paul Roberts has coached Kalani since 2014 but recently took up a coaching job in Melbourne. Kalani is currently going through a transition period before his father, Derek Savage who introduced Kalani to the sport via Youtube, will step in and take over.
Melbourne has a strong tennis presence and is where the whānau hopes to call home in the near future.
“We are going to make the move over to Melbourne within the next couple of years. Competitions are held every two days there,” mum Kim Rameka says.
Kalani's very first interview with Te Kāea in 2014.
Kim and Derek travel with Kalani to his respective tournaments. Meeting his sporting commitments can sometimes prove costly. To ease the burden of travel and accommodation costs, Kim, who is an ex bodybuilder has produced affordable nutrition and exercise programmes as a way of catering to Kalani’s sporting needs. This fundraising idea has proved popular amongst whānau and friends.
“They ended up being quite popular. I managed to sell quite a bit of them and that was only just keeping it within my friends so I haven’t actually gone outside of that yet but I think if I really did want to be serious I could probably extend it out a bit further.
It’s helped heaps. We’ll definitely get to go to the next tournament and stay up in Hamilton for the whole week, accommodation and all that stuff so it’s definitely paid for that side of it,” Kim says.
Skills aside, Kalani is also working on the mental side of the game which can be challenging for him at times.
“He’s still got a lot of work to do mentally. For example, his skill has improved so much. But when his attitude is on and he’s mentally focused, he’s pretty unstoppable. So that’s what him and his dad are working on.
His dad has been researching the mental side of things and trying to apply some of those techniques as well. They’ve only started that since the transition. Dealing with pressure and emotions,” Kim says.
Kalani was fortunate to have the guidance of one of New Zealand’s leading sports psychologists, David Galbraith, who has worked alongside the likes of Lisa Carrington and Super Rugby team The Chiefs.
“We had a session with him in Hamilton and then we did a lot of corresponding via email. He talked to us about different techniques and stuff like that.
Kalani had to fill out all these reviews after every training. It was really good. David found out in the first ten minutes of his conversation with Kalani that he actually loves the sport just by the questions he was asking. We actually learnt a lot about ourselves as well.”
Kalani's efforts were acknowledged when his parents took him to the ASB Classic in Auckland in January. He was given the chance to meet some of his tennis idols, including his ultimate favourite, David Ferrer.
Kalani meets tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
“I enjoyed watching them and they signed my tennis balls. I met Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, Jack Sock and Bautista Agut,” Kalani says.
Although it wasn’t the first time he’d been to an international match, he says it was an inspiring moment for him.
“I just thought that was cool and I wanted to copy them.”
Kalani will now prepare for the Waikato Regional Tennis Tournament where he will compete in both the 10 and 12-year-old sections.