We had the pleasure of talking to Annabel Croft recently. She’s one of the coaches, along with Leon Smith OBE and Greg Ruzetski, involved in delivering the #TennisForKids programme for the LTA. Annabel started playing tennis at nine, late by today’s standards, but went on to become the Wimbledon Girls Champion and the Australian Open Girls Champion at 18. Watching players like her certainly inspired me to take up tennis, much as Murray does today’s generation. Our daughter POD first picked up a tennis racket when she was four while on a Mark Warner holiday. She enjoyed it so much, last year we signed her up for the LTA’s #TennisForKids initiative.
Specifically created for 5-8 year olds, Tennis For Kids is a six week programme run by LTA qualified coaches. Set up following the success of the GB Davis Cup Team, it’s a legacy programme designed to expand tennis at a grass roots level. POD was one of over 10,000 children that took part in 2016 with more than half these kids continuing to play. As Annabel Croft highlighted, tennis is a game you can choose to play competitively or socially but most importantly throughout your life.
Our experience of #TennisForKids
The #TennisForKids course POD attended took place at a small club local to us. Each 45 minute lesson was at the same time each week after school. Rackets and balls were provided throughout so all we had to do was to turn up. POD had an experienced LTA coach who, as well as having an abundance of patience, always kept the kids entertained while coaching. It’s a great way to teach kids as they’ll always enjoy activities when they’re lots of fun. Tennis For Kids was in a relaxed environment but with structured lessons and new skills taught each week.
Agility, balance and co-ordination were just some of those learnt along with picking up key strokes. POD is a great thrower but her catching skills were slightly amiss at the start. Practice makes perfect though and they improved as the weeks progressed. She got to partner with other children and work within a team throughout the course. These were mixed up regularly so no-one spent all the time with the same person. The children had tennis rackets in their hands by week two which pleased POD greatly as she was itching to hit the ball! She found it a little strange holding a racket at first although that was down to her saying she was right handed when she’s a leftie!
POD has bags of energy so Tennis For Kids suited her well in that it was quite fast paced. The coach was conscious of keeping the children occupied and while he rarely rushed anyone, there was little waiting around. The #TennisForKids programme provided POD with a great introduction to a number of positions like the “warrior” (or ready) position which is essential in tennis. She also learnt how to react to different scenarios on court and where she needed to be to hit the ball back.
Learning forehand (or “fry hand” as POD called it) and backhand was also taught along with other strokes like volleying and serving. There was net time every week too so the children could put into practice what they’d learnt that session. It was amazing to see how the kids progressed over the duration of the 6 week course. POD was thrilled when she received her own racket. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to tennis, giving her the skills (and equipment!) she needed to continue. And it was all free. As well as #TennisForKids POD has had free coaching during the Great British Tennis Weekend. These special weekends take place during the summer months (this year mainly on the 13th/14th May and 22nd/23rd July). She has also attended open days run by the LTA and will be at a session locally this weekend – these are all free too. We’re hoping to secure a coaching course for her at another tennis club so we can join as a family and play more regularly. Although you can play tennis all over the place these days (check out the LTA website to find a court), we have relished the club environment in the past. You can just as easily play in a park though.
Tennis For Kids is back in 2017
We’re thrilled #TennisForKids is back for a second year running having been so successful last year. It’s even bigger than it was in 2016 too. Nearly 1,000 LTA coaches are involved and a whopping 20,000 free places are available for kids (aged 5-8) who are keen to take up tennis. The course is jam packed with entertaining games and activities with the focus on fun and teamwork while learning those core skills, positions and strokes. Children that regularly attend the #TennisForKids programme will also receive a brand new, specially designed Davis Cup tennis tennis racket. You can sign up here. Parents can of course watch all the action and do get the opportunity to get on court during a session too. If you fancy joining an introductory course for adults, check out Tennis Xpress.
The blogger challenge!
With #TennisForKids such an awesome initiative, we thought we’d challenge a fellow blogger to give this brilliant LTA experience a try. We’re nominating the lovely Lou Hegarty from parent and lifestyle blog Birds and Lillies. She lives in Nottingham and her daughter is the same age POD was when she did #TennisForKids last year. Hopefully that means we’ll be able to impart our knowledge and pass on a few tips too. We’re so looking forward to hearing how they get on and do follow them if you’re not already. You can catch them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.