Published on November 26, 2012 | by Dean Joseph

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LTA have funds cut

Tennis

Tennis has come under much scrutiny over the past year, after the Lawn Tennis Association [LTA] funds were cut last April, resulting in coaches questioning the future of the sport and the development of young aspiring players who are not capable of affording the fees.

Sport England showed that the average number of adults playing tennis at least once a week declined to 375,800 in 2011. Although the latest results for 2012 show an increase in participation to 417,700.

Mini tennis clubs have been run by the LTA to help introduce the sport at a younger age for primary school students across the UK. This has been pleasing to see and has helped increase participation.

With the British success of Andy Murray, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, the immidiate future is bright. But with the funding being reduced, there has been a mixed reaction over the more long-term successes of British tennis.

Mark Chase, a licensed LTA coach said: “For the past three months, British tennis has been successful and from this it could lead to great hope that the lack of young tennis players can be fixed”.Mark Chase

“Obviously, the LTA’s funding being cut is up for debate, but we haven’t produced consistent top talented tennis players with the funding we receive. We get far more funding than other countries and they still produce more players.”

Despite having three fantastic players currently putting tennis in a healthier position, future success beyond the careers of Murray, Watson and Robson is not guaranteed.

Tennis is all down to the coaching and the development of players from a young age, but due to poor resources tennis will always be a minority sport.  Access to clubs and the standard of free amenities available for the average person have always been an issue.

The future of tennis is very much reliant on Roehampton national tennis centre (where Chase coaches), but more has to be done to help improve parks and affordable access to tennis for the average player.

“Too few affordable indoor courts exist and to promote the sport you have to make all public facilities free and accessible. The outdoor courts where I coach do not have floodlights and this is a problem,” claimed Chase.

British players have benefited having access to the world-class courts and top coaches at the National Tennis Centre. But we seem to forget that if we don’t provide local parks with good indoor and outdoor tennis courts for people from a young age, tennis will never excel.

There is a major difference between a park and the national tennis centre, but improving local tennis courts involves investing a lot of money.

Phillip Lamb, LTA development coach said: “I am at a park court which is being privatised. This is not a good idea. The council was running a very good development programme.

“Participation is the key to grassroots tennis and enjoyment. The more people that play, the more chance we will have of them making it in the future. More funding needs to be given to park sites in my opinion,” Lamb suggested.

Lamb, who has built a very successful and popular programme at Old Deer Park, believes producing players is in a better position than ever. “Coaching has improved over the last five to ten years and I believe this has impacted upon this.
Tennis was always a posh person’s sport, but I believe this is gradually changing, particularly at park courts. Tennis courts are very accessible at parks, so the average player has a great deal of opportunity, no matter how the state of the court is at to play,” Lamb said.

The recent success of British players has had people talking about the sport, but the main objective is to get them playing tennis. Without local parks being re-developed and providing easier access to courts there would be no hope for the future of tennis at all.

Hornfair Park in Greenwich has opened up new opportunities after renovating three courts into four and four LTA mini tennis courts on the site. A £106,747 grant from the LTA and additional local authority and partnership funding helped renovate and make the project possible.

Richard Lewis, Sport England’s chairman, said: “It’s vital that public funding for sport goes into facilities that meet the highest standards, are welcoming, and cater for everyone. That’s how we’re going to get more people using them every day. The new courts at Hornfair Park will offer even more accessibility for its members and encourage more people from the local community to get involved in the sport.”

LTA development director Tom Harlow added: “The LTA is delighted that the amerities here at Hornfair Park have been opened and are ready for use. It’s an important part of the LTA’s work to ensure that there are top quality clubs to grow tennis in the community.”

The funding has provided a drive to increase tennis opportunities for people to participate, compete and access coaching in the community.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the community, but, despite the opening of these new courts. Being an important factor for the future of British tennis, the LTA needs to solve and improve more club resources in more tennis-deprived areas around the country. Only then there will be a change in the production of players and future success for the sport.

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