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'This is an enormous opportunity for tennis'

21 Jul 2015

Great Britain Fed Cup captain Judy Murray on how the Premier League 4 Sport programme engages young people in tennis

Participants from the Premier League 4 Sport Tennis initiative had a day to remember recently when they demonstrated how the programme engages young people in different sports at a special event at the House of Commons.

One of the special guests who came to watch the various games and tennis activities was Judy Murray, tennis coach and Great Britain Fed Cup captain, who last weekend watched her sons Andy and Jamie help Great Britain reach the semi-finals of the Davis Cup.

"There is talent everywhere but talent without opportunity doesn't come to anything"

Judy Murray

Murray was impressed with how the Premier League, together with British Tennis, is getting youngsters involved in the game, encouraging them to develop a sporting habit for life and here she tells why programmes such as Premier League 4 Sport are so important: 

"This is an enormous opportunity for tennis, to join forces with other sports, and with football in particular. We have to grow our participation numbers and in order to do that we have to take tennis into areas where it currently doesn't exist, areas that are perhaps not what you would call traditional tennis areas.

"To have the chance to hook up with a sport like football, which has such a wide-reaching community programme for both boys and girls, is a really exciting opportunity.

"There are many children at the PL4Sport Tennis event at the House of Commons who said they would never have had the chance to try tennis if it hadn't have been for the Premier League activity and opening up the chance for them to have a go.

"For me, it doesn't matter whether they are good at it, or not, or what they wear or whether they have got the right equipment, the important thing is to give them the chance to try it. Then, hopefully, create an interest with that through the activity that the community programme is putting on.

Judy Murray and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch play at the House of Commons

"The key is to make sure that if they enjoy it, there is an exit route for that interest, which would lead them to the local park, or in time, perhaps their local tennis club. It's a big opportunity and it's not about whether they are wearing proper kit, or whether they have got a posh racket, it's about seeing them out there having fun in the fresh air and enjoying being with their friends.

"One of the challenges that we have with tennis is that, although there has been some good work done by the LTA and the Tennis Foundation over the last few years to try to resurrect a lot of the park sites that had become derelict or fallen into disrepair, there aren't public tennis courts in every local area.

"One of the great things about football is that you can play in any open space. My point‎ with tennis is you don't need a court to get started. You can tie a piece of rope between two chairs and create your own playing area. Jamie and Andy's first home-made court was in our driveway at home. They also used to bat balloons over the sofa.

"If kids see tennis on the TV, as with Wimbledon recently, they want to go out and play sport. They might not live near a tennis court but if you can show them there are other ways that you can play it, an abbreviated version, it's about making it accessible, affordable, making it fun and taking it into places where you currently wouldn't find it, which is what I'm doing with my Tennis on the Road programme in Scotland.

Aspiring tennis players had a day to remember at the Houses of Parliament

"There is talent everywhere but talent without opportunity doesn't come to anything, so we have to create more opportunities and that's why I think this is such an exciting thing for tennis, to be linked with a major sport like football, which has such a huge network of community coaches, big clubs, funding and exposure, and I am very excited about this partnership.

"We don't have anywhere near enough girls playing tennis, never mind competing in tennis so I see this as big chance to get more kids to try the sport and hopefully take it forward. My Miss-Hits programme is doing just that by making tennis more attractive to young girls. It is early days but it's been very encouraging so far.

"This is incredibly important for female participation. Girls and women’s football has been growing for a number of years. The profile of the England Women’s team have had this year in the World Cup has been fantastic for the women's side of the game.

"With a sport like football having such a huge reach, through the community programmes, to both boys and girls, for us to be able to tie up with that, and take tennis to so many more girls, and particularly in areas where it probably has never been taken before, is a massive opportunity for us to grow the girl’s side of the game."

Premier League 4 Sport, which is funded by the Premier League and the Government, via Sport England, began in 2009 as an Olympic Legacy initiative and offers 12 non-football sports through 34 professional football clubs.

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