Mini Tennis thriving since Murray success
Originally published on: 11/11/13 00:00
While participation is growing in the sport, the LTA has seen a spike in kids playing Mini Tennis since that historic day on July 7.
Murray’s three-set win over Novak Djokovic ensured he was headline news and children across the country suddenly had a hero to follow. And, according to Level 5 coach and LTA representative Phil Leighton, more kids than ever before want to play the game.
“There’s definitely more interest with the youngsters,” Phil said. “They know exactly who Andy Murray is whereas several years ago they might have only just heard of him. He has helped increase the interest in kids playing but what we’ve got to do now is keep them.
“That’s the big challenge,” he added. “You’ve got to have them coming back over 12, 18 months and two years time to really make a difference.”
The LTA’s solution is Mini Tennis, which provides kids with smaller racquets, softer balls and better courts so they can improve on key techniques before they’re ready for the adult game. It’s been running for years, and with age groups ranging from three up to 10, the idea is to get kids hitting as many balls as possible.
“Mini Tennis simplifies the game, it stops injury happening at a young age because they’re using the correct equipment, smaller, lighter rackets, and it helps promote the technical side of the game,” Leighton said.
“It’s much better than kids having a huge racket and rock-hard ball bouncing over their heads, which teaches them all sorts of wrong techniques."
In the Fan Zone at London’s O2, where the ATP World Tour Finals are taking place, there’s plenty of action to be had on the LTA’s Mini Tennis pop-up facilities, such as reaction tests, soft play courts and a Nintendo Wii simulation.
The project is designed to keep kids interested and enthused in the sport, but while facilities and Murray’s titles do a good job, Phil insists coaches play as much of a part in keeping the youngsters inspired.
“Tennis is not an easy game to play and it does take a couple of years before you start rallying well and getting real success out of it. At entry level with your youngsters you need positive, enthusiastic and really motivated coaches,” he said.
“Enthusiasm is what it’s about for all us coaches out there. Whatever sport we’re coaching our job is to motivate and enthuse the youngsters to take up the game."
To find your local Mini Tennis centre and for more information about the project, visit LTA.org.uk.