By James Field
Yorkshire tennis clubs are confident that success at professional level can have a positive impact on junior participation at local clubs.
Recently there was Great Britain’s first Davis Cup victory since 1936, followed up by great performances in the Australian Open from Andy Murray, Johanna Konta and Jamie Murray, who became the first Brit in 82 years to win the doubles title.
However, at junior level British tennis is still struggling. LTA chief Michael Downey reported last year that monthly participation at junior level had dropped from nearly one million in 2008 to just 694,000 in 2015.
Whitkirk Tennis Club in Leeds is a typical club that is hoping to benefit from recent successes. “I hope that the success of the Davis Cup can have an impact here, but so far I haven’t seen it,” said club coach Cezar Gniadek.
The co-ordinator of the junior section at Whitkirk Mary Stearman reported that junior memberships have failed to grow in recent years. “We now have 80 members, year before last we had 90 something, so we usually average 80.”
There are other schemes around the country that are aiming to get more youngsters involved in tennis at a young age, one of which is Tennis Tots. They get kids from the age of two to six to become familiar with a tennis racket.
Luke Davis, who runs the North Leeds franchise of Tennis Tots said: “I’ve coached over 600 kids here so hopefully that could mean more members for local clubs.”
The LTA are now promising increased funding for grassroots clubs and their hope is that the current success at professional level can inspire the next generation of British tennis.