Judy Murray’s Spice Girls for sport
Originally published on 01/07/14
Murray’s influence in tennis continues to grow with the launch of “Miss Hits”, a new LTA programme design to appeal to girls between the ages of five to eight. Using dance, balloons and skipping ropes, the British Fed Cup captain has dreamed up a programme designed to develop tennis skills in a fun and friendly environment.
Murray, who has spent 18 months developing the programme, believes the reason why there are four boys to every girl at entry-level tennis is because girls are put off by factors such as weather and competitive environments.
“If you come out and get wet and cold then you may decide you don't like tennis, blaming the sport and not the weather,” says Judy, who recognises that young girls do not get the best experience alongside boys of the same age, who tend to be more competitive and more robust.
Designed as a feeder to the LTA’s Mini Tennis programme, Miss Hits aims to appeal to young girls by creating a social environment that nurtures friendship over competition. By creating social groups, Murray hopes it will encourage girls to progress further in tennis.
“The programme should ensure that the level of the girls entering Mini Tennis will be a whole lot higher and a whole lot bigger in terms of numbers,” said Murray at the launch of the programme on Tuesday.
Murray’s two sons, Jamie and Andy, are both successful professional tennis players, but the British Fed Cup captain clearly understands what makes young girls tick too.
“All the way through the pathway we do not have enough female coaches and they understand the needs of little girls much better than guys will,” said Murray, who has designed the 12-hour programme, divided into two six-week blocks, which does not require the teacher to be a qualified tennis coach.
“The programme has a double effect,” she explains. “One is to get more young girls trying tennis and having a great, fun experience that creates a social group, develops good co-ordination and where they will come out of this after two six-week blocks and go into Mini Tennis with a social group and with better co-ordination and understanding of what all the tennis strokes are.”
In an attempt to make the technical side of tennis engaging for young girls, Murray has dreamed up characters to personify each stroke. Described as the Spice Girls for sport, Faith Forehand, Bella Backhand, Valentina Volley, Sasha Smash, Selina Serve and Alejandra Ace (the team captain) each have their own favourite players, surface and their own dance routine. Even Billy the Ball Dog has his own dance routine.
Recognising that many young girls prefer dance to sport, the traditional tennis warm-up is a dance routine. Coaches can even follow along on the app while they demonstrate the routine to the girls.
The Miss Hits app and website features information for parents and coaches as well as interactive characters, where a young girl’s experience can continue away from the activity, such as learning about scoring and competition.
“I play you, I win, I go forward,” explains Judy. “You learn about the game away from the lesson.”
“Tennis, Friendship, Fun” is the strap line for the Miss Hits programme, which clearly reflects Murray’s passion and creativity, as well as her mission to see more females engaging with the sport at all levels, for young girls as well as women coaches.
A huge amount of planning and work has gone into the Miss Hits, with the programme being piloted across London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Newcastle this autumn ahead of a national rollout next year. But with its international characters, one of whom has Li Na as her favourite player, the package has the potential to be expanded on an international scale.
In doing this, Judy has shown another way in which the Murray brand is gaining momentum and doing its part to remove barriers and changing the culture of tennis. The programme may be called Miss Hits, but it is on target to become a big hit!