Performance v Participation

Have you ever stopped to think what we should be trying to achieve as a sport in Great Britain?  Should our priority be to get more people playing tennis or should we be focussed on producing future Wimbledon champions?

If you were in charge of British Tennis, where would you be putting your money? Over the past three years, there has been more focus on getting more people playing whereas previously talent identification and increasing the number of juniors playing competitions was the goal.  Different people have different ideas and motivations but I am clear where I think we should be going.

At a local level, at Liverpool Tennis Centre we have been trying to grow the number of people playing tennis and from my experience this is where you need to start.  We are a community tennis facility with no membership fee and our prices are lower than most other indoor venues.  We have a very committed team of coaches and off-court staff who are passionate about growing the game and getting more people on court.  The financial pressures we face make this mission even clearer but it is a direction we do believe in.

Too often indoor tennis facilities are encouraged or financed to deliver programmes for talented players but this is often at the expense of giving the general public the opportunity to play our wonderful sport.  How you can identify and develop ‘performance’ players when you don’t have that many players to begin with is something I have always struggled to understand.  Over the past few years, we have seen huge growth in the number of children playing tennis in Liverpool and we will continue to grow these numbers for as long as we can.  As the programme grows and players begin to play more and improve, we can support those more committed players to develop and achieve their potential and we have experienced coaches who can do this but our number one aim will always be to continue to grow the game.

We feel it is our duty with the facilities we have to provide as many opportunities as we can for as many different people as possible.  Yes, we will have good players and we will make them even better but every player is important to us.  Developing future champions is merely the icing on the cake but we need to make sure we have baked our cake first.

Let me know your thoughts and feedback.  What are your motivations as a coach or a facility and what do you see as the way forward…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Liz james says:

    Think you have hit the nail on the head. I’ve been involved in junior tennis as a parent for the last 11 years and can see that money is not being spent in the correct way. Too much focus has been placed on supporting a few individuals from a young age, only to see most of them drop out by the age of 16. Surely money should be invested in centres to encourage a greater participation. This will lead to a bigger talent pool and then perhaps support players from an older age when they have shown commitment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave Hillier says:

      Thanks for your comments. I agree there is a definite link between how performance is prioritised and drop-out for players who are not supported. We have one programme in Liverpool that anyone can be a part of. Those players who are more committed can play more if they want to but the same opportunities exist to everyone.


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