This past week in Liverpool, we have delivered tennis to over 1,000 children in local primary schools on our latest Schools Tennis Roadshow.
Our team of coaches worked very hard getting rackets in children’s hands, most for the first time, and then getting them along to our Open Days at the weekend. We were delighted with the number of children that came along and also that so many wanted to carry on playing on our weekly Mini Tennis programme.
Getting tennis played in school is crucial to growing the game and this is a challenge for many tennis venues and coaches across Great Britain. More so than ever, the school sport landscape is very competitive with many different providers trying to get through the door. Many tennis venues find it extremely difficult to make links with schools and are often fighting with other sports for their chance. We have been very lucky to be able to visit over 60 primary schools in Liverpool in the last two years but it has not been easy to make these links.
As you know, tennis is a fantastic sport that children can enjoy and, with smaller rackets and softer balls, it can be played by everyone. Tennis can also be played from a very young age and is as much a sport for girls as it is for boys. These are the advantages that tennis has over many other activities but if coaches aren’t able to get into their local schools, we will not be able to get new players into the game. Individual coaches’ livelihoods, as well as the future success of many tennis clubs, depends on being able to promote the sport and get new players into junior programmes. I know many individuals and organisations who would say this is their biggest challenge to get access or resources to deliver tennis in schools.
With hard work and the right relationships, tennis has the opportunity to be a very successful sport in primary schools with all the advantages it has. I fear in secondary schools it is becoming more difficult, particularly if teachers don’t feel confident teaching tennis or if the children have no experience of playing.
As a sport, we need to do everything we can to increase the amount of tennis played in schools. In Liverpool, we have come a long way in the last few years but it has not been easy and if we wish to continue to get more people playing, the number of children experiencing tennis in school needs to increase. Only when tennis becomes more of a priority in schools will we really be able to grow participation.
Let me know your thoughts on tennis provision in schools and what is your experience of making links with your local schools….