How to become a 'Tennis Activator' in your community
British tennis wants to prove that it's a sport which is accessible to all - not just for 'the white middle classes'.
As a result, the Tennis Activator coaching programme - a Tennis Foundation, LTA-backed venture - was created with the main aim of building a committed network of community role models that could spread the word, swishing racquet in hand, in non-traditional tennis areas.
Two years later, across eight UK locations, more than 600 'Activators' are busy doing just that having been liberated to coach accessible, grassroots sessions after undertaking quick, low-cost training courses.
A number of 'good news' stories have emerged: Sikh children in inner-city Birmingham have caught the tennis bug; a deprived London borough is channelling its inner Andy Murray; a crumbling Victorian venue in Portsmouth has been transformed; disabled tennis in Norfolk is abuzz.
But more can be done - more inspirational 'Activators' are needed - especially with the scheme now set to be rolled out nationally...
How can I become a Tennis Activator?
The 'Activator' course is a half-day workshop (three hours) that involves basic tennis organisation and delivery skills. Though the majority of participants have had a sports background (Sports Development Officers, coaches qualified in another sport, Community/Youth Development Workers, etc), it is open to anyone - there are no pre-qualifications.
Contact the Tennis Foundation! The vision of Britain's biggest tennis charity is to make tennis inclusive and accessible to all. It works in partnership with the LTA, the national governing body, and a number of other organisations to ensure tennis has its broadest possible reach.
Where are the Community Pilot Schemes?
The idea for the Tennis Activator programme was developed within the eight Community Tennis Pilot teams who have been working in Glasgow, Swansea, King's Lynn, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the past two years.
Faced with trying to stimulate interest and activity in tennis in order to fill a gap in these community settings, the orthodox coaching education structure (from level 1 to level 5) was deemed inappropriate for the kind of work that was needed in the areas not accessing tennis.
An easily accessible and quick coaching training programme was seen as the most suitable method of delivery - with the key issue creating a passionate workforce - and so the Tennis Activator scheme was born.
'Tennis Activator' case study - Bal Singh
Bal Singh - a well-known, proactive figure in Handsworth, Birmingham - says he is proud to be a Tennis Activator, and praises the scheme.
He was motivated to show children and parents in the Sikh community the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle, and has seen great success in helping them learn the basics of tennis and driving participation.
Also a qualified football, badminton and Dodgeball coach, the West Brom fanatic got involved with tennis after help from the Tennis Foundation and LTA. They put him through the 'Tennis Activator' course and helped with equipment - he has been able to set up a variety of projects, including sessions for disabled children and those with learning disabilities.
"I'm always getting more and more response to the programmes that I promote," he says. "I want to carry on doing this, and to do more.
"If the kids are smiling, I'm smiling, It's not about creating a Wimbledon champion - it's just about making people think 'yeah, tennis is for me'."