As the league tennis season gets underway, the role that tennis clubs play in the development of junior players is becoming more and more important.
Aspiring juniors have so many opportunities that didn’t exist many years ago. The competition structure is more sophisticated that it has ever been, there are more indoor courts than ever before and the coaching workforce is larger than it’s ever been. Lots of players are training now in indoor tennis centres and getting high quality programmes from full-time, professional coaches. But let’s think back to a time when all these things weren’t as readily available as they are now.
Traditional, outdoor, members tennis clubs are the backbone of the sport in Great Britain and provide important experiences that can’t be found elsewhere. The opportunity to play league tennis for young players against experienced adult players is invaluable as they develop their competitive skills. The opportunity to play a good standard of doubles is something that all tennis clubs can offer junior players. And then there is the social side of the sport which is so important if we are going to keep our junior players in the sport long-term. Tennis clubs also offer the opportunity to just go and play at very low cost. If you are looking to spend more time on court then there is no better place to do this than your local tennis club.
Indoor tennis centres should be playing a key role in introducing players to the sport but that journey should ultimately end in a tennis club. Committed junior players who only play in an indoor tennis centre are missing out on everything that a tennis club can offer. The different experiences, court surfaces, opponents and friends that a tennis club provides are crucial to help junior players develop not only their skills but also their love of the sport. Training in an indoor centre provides high-quality, structure programmes, but this can be complemented by also playing at your local tennis club.
Tennis clubs face challenging futures with volunteers more difficult to come by and the increased pressures of generating enough income to maintain facilities. The number of tennis clubs has dramatically decreased over the past 30 years and more needs to be done to address this decline. Providing a welcoming environment and encouraging junior players (and their parents) to get involved is something that all tennis clubs should be doing. If tennis clubs are thinking about their future then providing as many opportunities as possible for juniors to join and play for teams will attract more players from the local area and help ensure more clubs survive in future years.