Tennis clubs given chance to improve courts via £125m pot in attempt to increase participation

PUBLISHED: 16:00 20 July 2017

Head coach Jamie Allen with junior tennis club members.

Head coach Jamie Allen with junior tennis club members.

Archant

Weston-super-Mare’s tennis clubs could benefit from a pot of money aimed at improving outdoor courts and increasing participation.

Weston Tennis Club.Weston Tennis Club.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is making millions of pounds available to grassroots tennis clubs, where around a third of playing hours are lost because of rain or it getting dark.

Interest in professional tennis is at a peak on the back of the success of Andy Murray, but the LTA believes more investment is needed to increase participation.

The standard of outdoor courts around North Somerset is seen as a barrier to participation.

Stuart Bannerman, head coach at North Somerset Tennis Academy, is taking the sport into schools and has been working at Banwell Primary School to get youngsters involved in the game.

He said: “We desperately need facilities which can be covered.

“Participation in North Somerset is actually poor. For those aged 18 and over, it is probably at an all-time low.”

Weston Tennis Club, based in Neva Road, already has floodlights and its coaches have been going into schools to increase participation.

But the lack of court coverings does mean rain stops play.

Weston Tennis Club.Weston Tennis Club.

Head coach Jamie Allen said: “It would be great if there were more indoor or all-weather courts. I think covering the courts would be something we would look at if we had the money, but it depends what residents around the area think.”

Stuart said participation in North Somerset is particularly low for girls, despite the recent successes of Britain’s Johanna Konta.

Of the children aged five to eight, 70 per cent of them playing tennis in the district are girls.

But in older age groups, this trend reverses.

However, Weston seems to buck the trend, and Jamie puts the improvement down to coaching in schools.

He said participation in Weston is getting better as funding has started going into some schools for them to pay for tennis coaching.

Jamie said: “Participation is getting better year on year.

“Going back a few years ago, we had very few girls playing and it was very difficult to get them playing. But on the whole there has been a real change.”

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