Tennis column: Parklife is key to the future of our sport

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Walk around most of Sheffield’s parks these days and you’ll stumble across a tennis court or three.

Some in decent condition but most barely recognisable, scuffed lines, holes in the court and sometimes not even a net! Well things may be about to change for the better.

Community parks tennis will form the cornerstone of the new Participation Strategy that the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) and Tennis Foundation are developing. The plan will to be formalise partnerships with Local Authorities, to protect tennis facilities and maximise the utilisation of park courts.

When we attended an LTA conference on the community participation strategy earlier this year we were surprised to learn the that the largest proportion of tennis participation in the UK takes place on public courts owned by Local Authorities, and that 2.2 million adults (16+) played in parks in 2012, clearly evidence that parks tennis is still alive and somewhat kicking.

The LTA is keen to support Local Authorities who want to develop their park sites as well as any coaches or clubs interested in this area of community tennis.

As a coaching provider, our role in this strategy is to bring our enthusiasm, passion and understanding of delivering coaching programmes to add some structure to parks tennis in order to encourage more players to access parks tennis more regularly throughout the year.

Although our main business has been predominantly within and established members club, community tennis is an area of our business that we have been keen to develop.

This strategy fits right in with where we feel we can assist local authorities in utilising their parks courts more effectively.

We recently ran an LTA Great British Tennis Weekend open day at Clifton Park, Rotherham to promote our new partnership with Rotherham city council. We had over 70 players register an interest in activities ranging form Mini Tennis Red (4-8yr olds) to Tennis Xpress (beginners crash course). Initially we will be running 12 weeks of tennis classes on Saturday and Sundays as well as summer tennis camps, Monday to Friday during the school summer holidays.

Our long term aim for The Academy Clifton Park is to develop a ‘club’ atmosphere with coaching activities for those interested, along with encouraging people to come and book a court to play on a social basis with friends. Ultimately we would like to install a full time coach in Clifton Park to continue developing the coaching programme and set up junior and adult teams.

As someone passionate to see tennis opportunities developed in the local community, it is great news that the LTA are taking the lead in re-investing in parks tennis courts. If coaches, local authorities and the LTA can work together effectively then that can only be good news for parks tennis users in the future.

Keep and eye out for open days being held at parks or clubs near you by visiting https://clubhouse.lta.org.uk/opendays and for further information about The Academy Clifton Park, Rotherham please call Ravi on 07771898208 or email Ravi@academytennis.co.uk