Oh I say! Andy Murray serves up a nationwide tennis bounce as children flock to courts
Wimbledon triumph has inspired a generation to try the game
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Friday 23 August 2013
Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray is inspiring a generation of children and young people up and down the country to pick up a tennis racquet and participate in the sport, an analysis by The Independent has found.
Tennis academies and clubs up and down the country have reported a “Murray bounce” after seeing an upsurge in the numbers of children and young people either inquiring about joining or signing up for membership since his historic win at the All England Club last month.
The Independent contacted more than 30 clubs and academies of different sizes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, of which 20 responded. Of these, 18 said they had seen an upsurge, either through membership figures or anecdotally.
It is not yet known whether the 26-year-old’s straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon final will continue to inspire a generation, but early indications suggest there has been a significant surge in young people wanting to play the game.
Murray’s mother Judy told The Independent: “It’s just great to hear that, as it’s such a wonderful opportunity for tennis to really grow the numbers. There’s a huge buzz about our sport at the moment, so it’s vital that clubs and parks are able to cater for kids and adults who want to try. The key, of course, is in the retention of those new players and that comes down to accessibility, affordability and fun.”
The Queen’s Club in west London which hosts the prestigious Queen’s Club Championships, said its summer holiday camps which are put on for members and guests were “busier this year than ever”.
Similarly, the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy in south-west London said numbers had doubled since Murray’s historic win. Despite slipping to No 3 seed, all eyes will be on the British number one again next week, as he battles to retain his US Open title.
“We run the summer camps from literally the day after Wimbledon for eight weeks and we’ve been going for four years, and our numbers have doubled,” said Mel Coleman, a partner at the academy. “You ask the kids who their favourite is and they now say Andy Murray. Over an eight-week period we have about 300 children playing – up from about 150-180 kids last year. There must be an element of the Andy Murray effect,” he added.
Adrian Moll, head coach at Maidstone Tennis Academy, in Kent, said: “Talking to fellow coaches around the country, they all see an increase in participation. Summer camps are filling up faster and more kids are trying it out for the first time.”
But he warned he didn’t think it would improve British tennis overall, because “British parents aren’t committed enough”.
“Children have too much to choose from, so they don’t commit to one thing,” said Mr Moll. “It’s the same with the parents: they won’t commit the time and the money.”
Coaches in Murray’s native country also reported an increase in participation. Mike Cohen, tennis development manager at Tennis Scotland, said: “We’ve definitely seen an increase. Club activities are a lot busier and the summer camps are filling up. A lot of new kids are coming to camps.”
After Murray’s win, Tennis Scotland and glasgowlife.org.uk ran a campaign to increase the interest in tennis, promoting courts free of charge and online booking of courts. The campaign saw web traffic grow by 320 per cent.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the national governing body of tennis in Britain, said it was too early to see exact figures post-Wimbledon. But they said weekly participation of tennis was up 18 per cent at the end of last year in England to 445,100.
And it isn’t just Murray: Heather Watson and Laura Robson’s efforts in the women’s tournament have encouraged the numbers of girls competing regularly. In the past three years, the under-12s playing the sport has nearly doubled to almost 8,000.
Rob Dearing, of the LTA’s participation team, said: “The success of our players has provided British tennis with a great opportunity. We have the chance to translate a moment of inspiration into a lifetime passion for the sport.”
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