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Is parks tennis being ignored?

British Tennis
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The LTA has a lot of different areas of tennis to deal with and since Roger Draper took over as chief executive it seems that it is getting several of them right.

The world's best coaches now work at the National Tennis Centre and the likes of Laura Robson winning Wimbledon shows that if a player has talent then they should progress through the system to an elite end which has all the resources it needs.

But is the pool from which all players start still shrinking? I only ask because the LTA has now decided that parks and community tennis is now be the responsibility of the Tennis Foundation.

A change in tack perhaps, but Tony Hawks who has campaigned for free tennis courts for years, thinks the move is a bad one. He claims that the LTA and the Tennis Foundation have been big on promising things but have delivered little.

Sue Mappin at the Tennis Foundation says all 10,000 public courts will be free in three years but Hawks says he had heard assurances like this before from Draper. He does not think the LTA head is that bothered about grass roots and has devolved all responsibility to what effectively is another organisation.

The Tennis Foundation now has a massive remit to deliver tennis at grass roots level through schools, clubs, parks and sports centres. It is a big ask for what was formerly a charity and it looks as though the LTA is happy to let them get on with it.

But can they, and the LTA moreover, deliver this sort of aim? Can they be trusted to get as many people playing as possible by making tennis a game for anyone, regardless of money?

Community tennis is a problem the LTA admits it has ignored for 20 years. Do you think they can finally sort it out?

Read the feature on the BBC Sport website here

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posted Jul 15, 2008

At last somebody with the common sense. And lots of people with very negative experience dealing with LTA.
When my children started playing tennis I did believe that after so much talking things would change. How stupid of me.
Cost of courts (indoor especially), lessons, petrol to drive them to play tournaments, county jumpers, county training (? why LTA couldn't pay - who knows).
And being bombarded on radio by LTA officials (who are not patronizing at all) about "little" sacrifises to be made (basically telling all working class parents - why you got your children raquets, get them a football).
Tennis in the UK is very elite, closed for so called grass roots, why not to admit it? It would be honest. We wouldn't even start. It's not very easy for parents to tell their children that yes, we know you love the sport and you are good, but your parents can not afford it, we are only working class at the end of the day. They still play at the club, at their schools, but it got nothing to do with LTA.
By the way, who can understand the purpose of new rating for U10?

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posted Jul 16, 2008

Lots of interesting comments here. Most seem agreed that freeing up public courts is a good thing. There really are councils out there that have NO free park courts at all.

Sign the petition at and we can put some pressure on the government to do something about this.

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posted Jul 16, 2008

I agree that more public courts should be available, but preferably not on an “open access” basis. I have seen what happens when this is the case. The courts are very quickly ruined by various activities which have no connection whatsoever with tennis.

In other words, the real problem is park surveillance and making sure that the expensive facilities that have been built are only used for the purpose for which they were intended.

If this means paying for public courts, then I am all for that.

Simply having the courts there will make no difference whatsoever unless people learn how to play. This should be done in schools – any competent PT instructor should be able to pass on the rudiments of the game, enabling the more gifted youngsters to at least discover their talent and go on to get more professional coaching at a club.

The LTA continues to be a bunch of syncophantic, self-serving, incompetent, arrogant losers with no more of an idea of how to advance their sport than Murray has of how to beat Nadal.

Going off on a bit of a sidetrack, the media are fairly complicit too in the number of unconvincing, non-credible and never-weres used as tennis writers, commentators and ‘experts’, simply because they are Brits. It may be unfair to single out just one, but take Sky’s and sometimes BBC’s ‘Mr tennis’, Mark Petchey (ATP career high: 80, number of singles tournament wins: 0, career singles record: w 35, L 73). Why should we listen to this man – demonstrably he does not know what he is talking about.

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posted Jul 16, 2008

Sorry, can’t go along with this. Whatever one thinks of Petchey personally (some like him, some don‘t), I can’t see the relevance of his playing career to his ability to commentate.

Two of the best commentators on TV are Leif Shiras and Sam Smith, neither of whom were world beaters as players.

There’s no automatic correlation between being a great player and being a great commentator (or coach).

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posted Jul 16, 2008

Well said SportsRep. The only thing they need to be able to commentate at this level is experience of playing at the level being commentated upon, which he has. Now, whether he's any good as a commentator is a totally different thing and as you say has no link to whether he was a good player.

Some people are naturals in the box (McEnroe) but it's got nothing to do with how good as a player they were.

Take Henman for example. He was a good player for many years, in the top 10 for a good number of years, so by the logic here, he should be a pretty good commentator. The truth is he was poor and didn't show any signs that this may improve.

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posted Jul 16, 2008

Yeah, you’ve got your naturals, as you say, and the you’ve got others who work really hard at it, such as Sam Smith, because they’re trying to make a (second) career in the media..

The ones I object to are those who just ‘play’ at being commentators/presenters, who think they can dip into it when they want and ‘do a little bit of media work’. It really doesn’t work like that as anyone who ever saw Sally Gunnell try it will know.

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posted Jul 16, 2008

I agree with Alistair M, community tennis is the root of the problem. For example I live in a rural market town which has very active sports clubs for football, cricket, rugby, hockey, swimming, karate and gymnastics for kids. There are two tennis clubs in the town but virtually nothing for kids even at peak summer times. Yet when a PE student put on some basic coaching sessions they were packed out.

We have great facilities, it costs to do all the other sports and passtimes too so this is not the only issue. We need to work on better involvement and particularly including schools and local clubs in promoting the sport. Kids have a lot of options and choice, we need to ensure that tennis is at least considered by them.

Finally that old chestnut - please let the kids have a go on the courts for at least a day at the weekend, even better with a coach available to give tips and for no or minimal cost. I remember having to get off for senior doubles games as a youngster and I get the impression things are not much different now.

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posted Jul 16, 2008

My club has started doing a Saturday morning drop-in for kids.

You don’t have to be a member, you don’t have to commit to attending regularly (ie you can just show up) and it costs – I think – £2 an hour, for which balls are provided. It’s always packed.

But we’re lucky in that we have 11 courts, so we can turn 4-5 of them over to the kids in this way without p***ing over the old boys who want their regular fours…

I guess the success of the scheme will be in whether those kids get sufficiently interested to take it further. But a good idea, I think.

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posted Jul 17, 2008


Having played tennis all my life I feel that the most important thing for the future of the game in this country would be the deconstruction of the LTA.

Quite simply this is an organisation that has failed for decades. All the players that we have had in the past twenty years have achieved their success in spite of LTA not because of it. For far too long the emphasis has been on those at the top of the game rather than at the base of the pyramid.

Over the past twenty years I have seen;
-the park facilities shrink in numbers and quality.
-the provision of tennis at schools decrease
-the role and respect of coaches within communities remain poor.
-policy change time and time again by the LTA meaning that even those of us involved in the game do not know what expect from the next LTA bulletin.

Roger Draper may complain about negativity towards the LTA but what can he expect with constant failure both on and off court. When our club had to move the organisation did provide funding, so long as we followed their instructions and used their recommended architects, builders and experts.

The courts are now suffering from subsidence, the floodlights from their official supplier constantly fail and the coach that they trained fails the club regularly and concentrates on only the performance players.

Life in British tennis without the LTA would be so much better as it could not possibly be any worse. So sling your hooks and leave us to enjoy the greatest game in the world

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comment by Red Fed (U9805245)

posted Jul 17, 2008

Here here... for most of it.

However I will say that coaches are often criticised in clubs for apparently focussing on performance players... mainly as they are seen on court with them the most. But they are with them more often as the social and development players are often that level coz of their lack of commitment. At the end of the day the coach has bills to pay too and so if given the chance to work with regular players or ones who can only commit to a couple of sessions here and there I know which I would choose.

Also you have to understand that even though the club may want one thing from the coach the LTA often want others. Where does the coach go... Often the coaches are on retainers and so they have to meet the clubs needs however if he or she wishes to further their career then the LTAs requirements need to be met.

As previously mentioned its Politics Politics Politics ruining the sport I loved. The love has all but gone now. I hope it will come back soon but until then tennis is something to watch on tv and not play in this country for me.

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