The Independent Parent: 'Where are the best residential tennis camps?'


Q. My 12-year-old son is showing great enthusiasm for tennis and I'm thinking of sending him on an unaccompanied residential tennis holiday during the school holidays, ideally somewhere in the UK.

Q. My 12-year-old son is showing great enthusiasm for tennis and I'm thinking of sending him on an unaccompanied residential tennis holiday during the school holidays, ideally somewhere in the UK. Please can you offer some suggestions - I don't want it to be too intense, so it would be good if there were other activities for him to get involved with as well.
L Lowe, via e-mail

A. As you do not want the tennis to be too intensive, a "Tennis and Multi-Sport" week with Exsportise (01444 444777; www.exsportise.co.uk) might be a good option. Exsportise has been running sports camps for unaccompanied children (aged nine-16) since 1988, and offers a choice of four venues in the UK. All of the holidays are based in boarding schools: Seaford College in West Sussex near the South Downs, Clayesmore School in Blandford Forum in Dorset, Fettes College in Edinburgh and Sevenoaks School in Kent.

Your son can play tennis for three hours each morning (Sunday-Friday), and in the afternoons choose from a selection of other sports including cricket, rugby, football, basketball and swimming. Lessons are taught by Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and United States Professional Tennis Registry (USPTR)-qualified coaches, and have a staff-to-student ratio of one to six. All coaches have experience teaching children.

The week's coaching covers all aspects of the game and finishes with a tournament on the Friday. The afternoons are more relaxed and flexible - your son can just sign up at lunchtime for what activities he fancies doing that day.

Accommodation is provided in the school houses - boys and girls sleep separately and have a choice of single and double rooms or small dormitories. There is one member of staff for every child. The course offers plenty of time for fun with a selection of evening entertainment including a weekly disco, barbecue, and race night. Escorted transport to any of the centres in England (but not Scotland) can also be arranged from a pick-up point in central London for £20 each way.

This year, camps take place between 4 July and 27 August and cost £435 for six nights. This includes full-board accommodation plus all activities and tuition. If your son is showing enthusiasm for tennis, it may also be worth buying him a membership to the LTA (020-7381 7037; www.lta.org.uk). This costs £20 per year for under-18s and will qualify him for a 15 per cent discount on Exsportise holidays. He will also receive monthly copies of Ace and British Tennis magazines, as well as a player rating which will enable him to enter tournaments and qualify for other travel offers.

Alternatively Windmill Hill Tennis and Golf Academy (08700 339997; www.windmillhill.co.uk), deep in the East Sussex countryside, has been running highly regarded tennis holidays for unaccompanied children around your son's age for the past 27 years. This year, its junior summer camps for 10- to 16-year-olds will take place from 26 June to 4 September. Your son would do three sessions of tennis each day (Monday-Sunday), which translates as three to four hours' play per day. There are plenty of other activities to help him unwind off the court, including an outdoor swimming-pool, a film night, a childrens' disco, volleyball, table tennis, a pool table and football matches. Children have their meals and can watch TV in the main Grade-II listed Georgian house. Accommodation is offered in single-sex houses (a cottage and a bungalow) in the surrounding grounds. Each house sleeps a maximum of 10 or 12 children, and a staff member stays overnight.

As far as tennis facilities go, there are four indoor courts, two outdoor hard courts, four outdoor synthetic courts and eight grass courts, so your son will be able to gain experience of playing on an array of different surfaces. Each coach handles a maximum of eight children, and the training programme includes video analysis as well as a tournament at the end of the week.

Escorted transport can be arranged from nearly anywhere in the country but costs extra.

A seven-night stay costs £550 per child on a full-board basis including all tuition and activities.

Finally, Jonathan Markson (020-7603 2422; www.marksontennis.com) has run tennis holidays in the UK and abroad for 25 years. Although its camps based in Oxford may be too intensive for your son's needs (up to 30 hours of tuition per week), it is also running a new camp this year between 16 and 30 July, which is designed for 11- to 16-year-olds.

The camps are held at Giggleswick School in the Yorkshire Dales and will provide three hours of tennis in the mornings (Sunday to Thursday), with a maximum of five or six players per coach. Again, in the afternoon there is a choice of other sports including cricket, hockey, swimming, rugby and footballin the afternoons. As is the case with the other holidays, Friday is reserved for an end of week tennis tournament.

Girls and boys are accommodated separately in single, twin or triple rooms. The price is £560 for seven nights' full-board accommodation, including all tuition and activities.

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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