Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton, which has been the home of the LTA since February 2007. It may not have the splendour of Queens Club, but Roehampton combines excellent office space for the administrators and state-of-the-art tennis facilities for the players. With 6 acrylic indoor courts, 6 acrylic outdoor courts, 4 grass courts and 6 clay courts - two of which are covered - this is where Britain's elite can eat, sleep and, of course, train. They have access to strength and conditioning training and to top coaching: it was great to watch Greg Rusedski coaching one of GB's best under 16s. [Isn't it encouraging that someone who probably doesn't have to work is giving British tennis 100 days a year coaching!]
But Roehampton is not just about elite sport. There is vision here for developing the future of British tennis, for Roehampton is also the home of the Tennis Foundation. Paul Reagan, Head of Education at the Tennis Foundation, has set out to make tennis much more accessible in schools. In the past year, the TF trained 8,000 Primary School teachers and invested some £3.8M in equipment. His plan is simple and realistic. Recognising that not everyone has the facilities of Roehampton, the TF have designed teaching materials and courses that can be delivered to classes of 30 in a typical Primary School hall. They have produced an outstanding DVD that makes teaching tennis straight forward for the teacher. The TF are providing these DVDs free; but knowing how easy it is for a good teaching resource just to sit on a shelf in a classroom, they are giving them only to those who attend a three hour training course. This ensures that a teacher is familiar with the material and confident in using the DVD before they face the class of 30. There is a challenge here for all Heads and Heads of Department - how often do we purchase resources without putting the necessary training in place to use them effectively?!
Making tennis accessible to teachers, and thus available to young children, are important steps in developing a broad playing base that will ensure the future of the sport and of national success. Well done the Tennis Foundation! Keep up the good work.
Details of the courses and other resources are available from www.schoolstennis.org