Emma Raducanu’s success at the US Open has to be one of the highlights of 2021. Just her second grand slam tournament ever, the 18-year-old wowed her way through the contest to become the first British woman to clinch a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon back in 1977.
Whether you’re already a keen tennis player or just an occasional armchair fan, it’s hard not to have been moved by Raducanu’s smashing performance and win.
Inspired by Raducanu’s success and thinking about getting your own kids into tennis? Here are the answers to the questions you are most probably asking.
Could my kid be the next tennis champ?Who knows! It’s great to nurture talent and encourage dreams. But getting your kid into tennis – or any sport – is about so much more than whether they’ve got a glittering trophy-filled future ahead. So even if they don’t show immediate signs of being the next Murray, Williams or Raducanu, there are so many reasons to take up tennis.
“For anyone who’s watched some of the great tennis on show in the grand slams this year, it’s clear how beneficial tennis can be to improve fitness. It’s excellent for cardiovascular health and endurance. Hitting the ball accurately over the net is also great for improving reaction times, alertness and coordination, and our lessons help to improve children’s confidence, agility and coordination,” says Joachim Treasurer, National Tennis & Specialist Sports Manager at Better (better.org.uk).
“It’s also superb for getting young kids outside and meeting new people of different abilities and testing/pushing themselves to improve. All this alongside the benefits to mental health that most exercise has, like reducing stress and building a sense of community, with many of those who play at our courts making friends for life.”
Tennis looks quite hard, thoughNot everyone will be a natural ace – but same as any sport, that doesn’t mean you can’t still improve and enjoy it. And remember, those champions on TV have had hours and hours and hours of training over many years.
“Our tennis courts really do welcome anyone of any age, ability or experience to the court, and they will pick up the skills and techniques they need to enjoy playing tennis and even push on to bigger things the more they practise alongside others in the community,” Treasurer assures.
Don’t you need to be quite wealthy to learn tennis?It’s fair to say tennis hasn’t always seemed like a widely accessible sport – generally speaking, clubs have traditionally been the reserve of the white and wealthy and if your family wasn’t already into tennis, chances are you didn’t really learn to play as a kid. But big efforts have been taking place to change this and make tennis lessons more welcoming and accessible for all.
Last summer, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) launched their ‘Play Your Way’ campaign with the aim of opening tennis up and encouraging people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to pick up a racket and have a go. Leisure centre chain Better, the largest provider of tennis lessons and courses across the country, has also been on a mission to help everyone get involved and transform the future of tennis at grassroots level.
So could my kid do tennis lessons?Lots more schools might be doing tennis now, so that’s a great place to start. It’s worth having a look for after-school clubs and any short-term courses that might be on offer in your area too – ask the school, local sports clubs and do a Google search to see what comes up.
Check out the LTA Youth Start and LTA Youth Programme too (both searchable on their website, lta.org.uk) for programmes specifically aimed at kids and youngsters who are both brand new to tennis and looking to level up their skills.
What if there’s nothing free nearby and we can’t afford to pay?
There could still be ways to hone those tennis skills outside of formal lessons. With some basic kit (trainers, racket, balls) there’s actually a fair bit you can do at home or in the local park to get practising.
YouTube has a ton of tutorial videos. Check out the ones LTA has put on there and follow their Facebook page for updates – they have some great videos with tips and exercises, all completely free.
What about hiring tennis courts?
Hiring a court is another great option, and this could be a way to get the whole family involved. If you’ve spotted courts in your local parks, see if there’s a notice nearby on how you go about booking – it will usually be via the local council and this is often low cost.
Many leisure centres and sports clubs have courts for hire too – but you don’t necessarily have to fork out on full gym memberships. “Outside of school club options, Better has over 240 tennis courts across the UK, as well as 10 indoor centres and four outdoor hubs. It’s crucial the sport is as accessible as possible, and so to avoid any membership expenses or costs that tie people down, anyone can hire Better courts from as little as £5 per hour, as a lot of our facilities are ‘pay & play’,” says Treasurer.