Just in case you hadn’t heard, a fella from Dunblane won a tennis tournament a few weeks back to become the first British player to win it for a few years. If this was news to you what remote rock have you been living under over the last few days?
It was a fantastic triumph in a thrilling three setter which saw number two seed Andy Murray over-come last year’s disappointment and beat world number one Novak Djokovic.
The post-Olympic period in 2012 was seen as an opportunity for all sports to boost participation for the nation and capitalise on the public’s sudden urge to copy what they saw on the TV and in the Stadia. But the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) didn’t seem to get this memo after Murray won gold in the Men’s singles Olympics and picked up a further medal in the mixed doubles.
Participation over the last few years in over 16’s has dramatically dropped rather than increase, which it predictably should have done. Access to courts must be one of the areas to blame. Unlike football or rugby where you can play it with minimal equipment, often just a ball, tennis requires rather more than this. Where I live the local park has 7 courts open to the public which after 7 are free to play on, however with the summer holidays approaching children are going to want to play during the day. That comes at a cost of £5 per hour plus more for balls and racket hire. This doesn’t sound a huge sum but what 12 year old has about £10 a day to throw around.
Rachael Raymond, sport teacher at Bexhill College, has been pledging relentlessly for tennis courts to introduce and build the interest in tennis amongst students. Finally last year her hard work paid off. However building tennis courts is an expensive business and with education cuts, the college could not afford to employ a professional company, as a result the court began to deteriorate quickly. This she says is one of the biggest issues with British tennis. Poor facilities at grass-roots and amateur level are putting people off. The way tennis is valued within Britain she feels is a major hindrance on our production of world beaters.
“Coming from a tennis academy, I was amazed to see how few schools have tennis in PE due to costs and lack of coaches. When professional tennis players finish their career they tend to go into coaching professionals rather than teaching tennis to the masses.”
She highlights 4 key areas that she feels need addressing at grass-roots level these include being more accessible, not just being a ‘rich’ sport, creating quality courts for the general public, more coaching programmes for communities to get people involved in the sport and for local clubs/institutions to link with schools thus opening the market wider.
For young players showing promise there is plenty of financial roots that can fund their talent from sponsorships, ACA, LTA funding and parental support. However that’s only if you are good enough to be acknowledged for the funds, what about average Joe who just wants to get a little better at tennis? That can come at a cost between £25-£35 per hour and having a coach for the day could cost £100-£150!