The Lawn Tennis Association
The Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) mission is to get more people playing tennis more often. Representative Paul Bennett recently took the time to tell us more about some of the good work that they’ve been doing lately.
He told us, “I have been with the LTA for fifteen years working in the regional participation team. As Head of Region in the North I enjoy working with colleagues and the many volunteers, coaches, professionals, partners, players, parents and fans who work so hard to get more people playing our sport.
Seeing such passion on a daily basis is very inspiring. In every meeting we look to see a positive improvement being made in our game – so when facilities are improved, or a coach qualifies, a volunteer develops new skills or a player improves, that is the greatest reward.”
“2017 was a very exciting year. We supported a number of key initiatives across the country including another successful Tennis For Kids programme, which trained over 1000 coaches to deliver tennis to 20,000 new children over a six week course, and we launched our largest ever capital programme “Transforming British Tennis Together”, which we hope will see a significant increase in the number of covered and floodlit courts and children playing tennis double over the next ten years.
Additionally, in the North region, we saw some positive trends with club membership growing by 7%, we introduced booking systems at 50 parks which resulted in a 33% growth in the number of courts booked and we supported 16 venues to improve their facilities, in particular helping them to add floodlights to ensure that tennis can be played all year round in more local venues.”
“In 2018 we plan to keep building on the good work achieved in 2017. Over 15,000 children have already signed up to this year’s Tennis For Kids program. We will also be supporting hundreds of clubs and parks to open their doors on 12-13th May and 21st-22nd July as part of the Great British Tennis Weekend campaign, hosting free Open Days where anyone is welcome to come along and give tennis a try.
With our partners ‘Tennis For Free’ we plan to launch free tennis sessions every weekend at another 15 parks in the North region and we want to also focus on helping more women and girls get involved in our sport through our She Rallies activities and training programs.
We will continue to provide training resources for teachers in schools (over 250 schools have received equipment packs and training in the last three years) and we are developing a network of supported University Tennis Co-ordinators to try and reduce the drop off of those aged 18-25 leaving our sport.”
“Tennis has been such a huge part of my life and I would encourage as many people as possible to have a go as it can be rewarding on so many levels. It is a sport for everyone, from children as young as 4, to grandparents who are still playing in their eighties and nineties. Equally, it’s one of only a few sports where generations can play together, as a family or with friends, and the versions of the game on small courts with soft balls means everyone can play together for much longer. Clubs in particular are very sociable places where you can spend your time relaxing as well as improving your skills!
The best advice I can give to those starting is to find your nearest venue and use the equipment designed to make the game easier at the start, such as smaller rackets and lower bouncing balls. This will enable you to get control of the skills required to play the game much faster – it then becomes a lot of fun very quickly!”
“Looking ahead, our biggest challenge continues to be attracting and retaining more players – especially in the context of rising obesity and inactivity levels. The weather is still a barrier to playing tennis in the United Kingdom. In the UK only 7% of all courts have a cover, compared to countries such as the Netherlands and France where over 20% of courts are covered.
Equally people are utilising technology more than ever as part of their everyday lives; sport needs to better move into this space enabling people to find more opportunities to play and to book their courts online using smart phones and digital devices as they would their shopping or buying a cinema ticket.”
“The future for tennis and other sports is to continue being relevant and accessible to people in their everyday lives. Tennis is affordable sport and it’s important we keep promoting just how accessible it is for anyone. Many park courts are open for free play and allow you to borrow rackets, whilst the average club membership in the North is less than £1 per week for a junior and £2 per week for an adult.
Tennis participation has managed to stay buoyant in a competitive market place in recent years with 10% of the population being inspired to pick up a racket each year. We have had such a rich period of time in our sport with unprecedented success through Andy Murray, Jonny Marray, Alfie Hewett, Jamie Murray and Jordanne Whiley winning Wimbledon and Grand Slams, with the pinnacle being Team GB taking home the Davis Cup.
We now have to support the development of a new generation of tennis players and to do so we’ve launched a new High Performance strategy this year. Success on court keeps the visibility of the sport high and will continue to encourage more people to access the many facilities and opportunities that are available.”
If you’d like to find out more about British Tennis and how you can get on court, coach, watch or volunteer this year, visit www.lta.org.uk