Our involvement with the Prime Video LTA Youth Girls' Launch
Report by Matt Last
This fantastic, new, two-year programme launched by Prime Video and the LTA is aimed at aimed at getting tens of thousands of girls into the sport.
Having been one of the lucky 250 coaches specially selected to help deliver the programme at our club, on Thursday 23rd February 2023 I had a nice early 5am start to the day for the drive up to the Nottingham Tennis Centre.
About the session
A morning overview provided a good overview briefing on why we were here, why we've been selected and what we're all striving to achieve to make this project a success. In short, tennis is pretty good in terms of female retention compared with other sports, however there remains a large gap between female and male retention in tennis - and the LTA, and all coaches, want to make it a gender-balanced sport and hit the 50/50 mark, to make it truly a sport for all!
The morning session also involved a discussion panel with two superb guest speakers, Alex Willis who currently works for the Primer League as director of digital media and audience development, plus former number 27 and an amazing British player who made it to the 4th round of Wimbledon; Laura Robson.
The panel discussion was called 'Passion, Power & Potential’ and focused on how we can pave a pathway for girls into tennis. It was really interesting to hear Laura's own journey and experiences on this topic. It seems the main thing that was missing was the lack of other competitive girls of her age, which meant she often played-up age ranges in all-boy groups.
So in my view, while it looks like tennis is faring ok, and getting girls and ladies onto the court, it's not so great at retaining them and it seems that a majority of this is down to the lack of numbers playing competitively at all levels of the sport.
Ok... some of us hate that word, and often get put off by it, but competitive tennis could be as small as entering your local club's box league tournament. However if there are very few to no players that are of a similar level then you don't get the competitive games that you would enjoy.
Competition doesn't purely mean winning (yes, for some players it's all about the result) but for others we get a buzz purely from being pushed or just having a close-run game regardless of the outcome. If we feel we're getting experience of this competitiveness on a fairly regular basis, then we're certainly more likely to want to stay in the sport.
The afternoon session involved jumping on court and understanding what the social and environmental pressures on girls both outside and inside sport are, and how they may impact our coaching. We learned about girls’ psychological needs and how to design SMART drills and activities to meet them, and a four-point format to introduce girls to competition.
Finally we headed back into the boardroom for a rundown on what exactly this programme will look like, once we're delivering it at our clubs.
Prime Video LTA Youth Girls will involve
Setting up and delivering several six-week long introductory courses aimed at girls only aged four to 16. This will cost each to participate £35, which as well as the course, girls will receive a racket, ball set, t-shirt and wristbands.
Setting up and delivering several follow-on six-week courses to further keep them going and in the sport. Effectively, the intro courses will feed directly into these groups.
All participants will finally be offered to take part in one of a few girls-only Team Challenge events; a fun day full of friendly competition. If attendees feel like they're getting the competition experience, without them feeling like they must win the tournament at all costs, then hopefully we'll have better success in further retaining these girls at the club.
We need your help!
I'm currently in the process of fitting these new sessions into the coaching calendar, and hoping to run at least six introductory courses, four follow on courses, and two big Team Challenges with the aim of retaining 20 girls who have gone through all three stages by the end of the year.
This is a big ask, as we will probably need 60-100 new girls to be booked onto the introductory sessions to achieve this, but I will strive to make this happen.
If any other club members share my passion for wanting to get as many girls and ladies into the sport then I implore you to please think what you could do to help this amazing, potentially once in a lifetime project.
This could be as little as volunteering to help out at our Team Challenge events, or maybe make a big leap on court and help deliver on-court - no coaching required just your passion and being a role model on court to inspire the girls.
Or, maybe you know or are part of some girls-only groups? It would be great to get some of these along for a free taster session at the club. Maybe you have a fantastic idea on how we can fill up these courses and how to advertise and get the word out? Please have a think and drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on 07561 454563.
I'm sure, with your help, we can truly make tennis a gender-level sport for all.