What actually happens in a typical week at Tennis Wales?

For this CEO blog, I thought I’d share some of our work here at Tennis Wales. A lot of people ask what we do, and what sort of projects we support so with those questions in mind, I’m sharing some of the work the team were supporting in a typical week. It goes without saying that there’s a lot more that happens but this hopefully gives you a deeper dive into the work of a National Governing Body, and specifically showcases some of what we do here at Tennis Wales; 

Monday 

We’ve created a National Training programme to support some of Wales’ top 14U, 18U and wheelchair players, which kicks off this week. There are a number of top Welsh players back in Wales, unable to travel to their training base in the UK, Europe or back into the US because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions. We sometimes forget just how international tennis is, with players training, competing and travelling around the world on any given week. For the time being though, Tennis Wales is providing subsidised training with high performance coaches here in Wales for 30 players, with sessions taking place across the country with strict social distancing measures in place. There are detailed risk assessments for each session meeting all the public health requirements and we’ve taken all the necessary precautions to get players training again in a safe way. Over the last few months members of our team have joined with other NGBs to develop plans for the best athletes in Wales to return to training and our aim is to ensure Welsh tennis players are able to continue their training in the same way their international counterparts are able to do so.

 

 

Elsewhere, the team has been working with the LTA to prepare for the return of competitions. Ordinarily 5,000 Welsh adults & juniors compete each year in leagues, tournaments, competitions and events, but with Covid-19, all of these are cancelled. We’re aiming to bring competitive tennis as we know it back in September, but in the meantime, we’ve launched a number of recreational & flexible match play opportunities including junior box leagues for Welsh players to compete locally in self-organised matches. Players have been arranging matches, competing and submitting their results to us here in Tennis Wales. Across Wales, hundreds of self-organised, socially distanced matches are being played as players return to the courts after 4 months off.

 

Box league at Windsor LTC, Penarth.

Tuesday 

Our participation team are working with a number of tennis clubs in Wales to become ‘hybrid clubs’. A hybrid club is a venue that offers a traditional membership scheme, tennis coaching for local people, and also offers pay & play bookings. Our hybrid club scheme invests funding into tennis club branding and marketing and with the support of the LTA, successful clubs can install a gate access system that generates a code to play tennis when someone books online and pays for a court. We’re seeing clubs that offer this pay & play opportunity alongside their membership and coaching have far more people trying the sport which is great for participation. Once people try tennis and enjoy it, they progress to join as a member. Not everyone is comfortable joining a club for 12 months membership straight away, so the hybrid offer is a great way to ease players into our sport and we’re starting to see clubs offering an hours court hire from just £4 which is great value for money.   

There’s some exciting progress as well as the team continue working on the newest tennis club in Wales that will officially open this winter. Neath Community Tennis Club is an exciting tennis venue in South Wales, and the volunteers have raised funds to resurrect 4 derelict tennis courts that will offer a low cost membership, pay & play and a local coaching programme. It’s a great example of passionate local people coming together, developing a great plan and attracting over £125,000 in funding to bring it to fruition. The team here at Tennis Wales have been supporting this journey for over 18 months and we’re now helping the club to finish the building and construction work, install all the latest technology, online booking system, launch a website and coaching programme and get ready for an opening in 2020. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes and we can’t wait to show off the new facility later in the season.

I’m not quite sure what a socially distanced facility launch will look like but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

 Neath Tennis Courts

Wednesday

Today is the Tennis Wales Board meeting, bringing together the Tennis Wales Board of Directors, senior LTA and Sport Wales colleagues virtually. All of our team, committee & Board meetings are virtual for the foreseeable future, but ensuring we’re continuing to coordinate with our two largest funding partners and govern the organisation with excellence is key to our work in Wales. The Tennis Wales Board is independently chaired and welcomes observers from the LTA and Sport Wales each meeting. The Board is made up of representatives from the North & South Wales tennis community as well as with independent Board members who provide great check, challenge and commercial experience to help take us forwards and deliver our new strategy for tennis opened up across Wales.

The Board meeting lasts about 3 hours, with plenty of check and challenge. The Board are keen to ask the key questions around our Covid-19 plans to ensure tennis is in as strong a position as possible, and discussing how we collectively remain on track to deliver our new strategy whilst navigating the pandemic.

Thursday

We’re working with the lawyers this week, as Tennis Wales looks to obtain the lease agreements for a number of public park tennis facilities across Wales. A lot of people don’t realise that 40% of all tennis is played on public tennis courts in Wales, whilst 19% is played in tennis clubs. People naturally think about tennis in our clubs which are growing their membership year on year, but the park tennis courts in Wales are falling into disrepair and being forgotten. We’ve committed in our strategy to transform park tennis courts, upgrading the facilities, installing online booking and making them low cost and accessible places for anyone to play tennis. There’s a lot of work to do with more than 83 public parks in Wales that have tennis courts but we’re reaching out to all 22 Local Authority Chief Executives to get things going. 

I actually started playing on a park tennis court in Wickham, Hampshire as a child. It was a tired court on the side of a busy road and my brother and I used to climb under the fence to play each weekend. Over time we progressed to join the local tennis club, and now we both work in tennis full time. Parks are a great place for us to invest to grow the game and then progress people into clubs and other tennis venues over time. This week we’re signing the license agreements on two public parks and hope to be able to invest into many more in the years ahead to reach thousands of new players.

Tennis Wales will run the parks, maintain them, offer low cost bookings and recruit local tennis coaches to run their coaching business on the parks. All the money that’s generated from the park tennis programme goes back into Tennis Wales. We’re a not for profit organisation, so the money we bring in can go back out into the tennis community in other ways.

Friday

There’s no escaping Covid-19 as it continues to affect all of our work and this week the Welsh Government announced the latest changes to legislation. The legislative changes affecting tennis are quite substantial and it’s all hands on deck. After the First Minister’s speech at 12.30pm, there are conversations needed with Welsh Government colleagues to provide us with the detailed legal guidance for us to base our tennis guidance and risk assessments upon. Then we need to liaise with the LTA to update the tennis guidance and prepare communication to go out across Wales and more widely across GB as other announcements take place in England & Scotland. Once we’re happy with the guidance for players, coaches, officials and venues, we need to create the infographics, translate everything into Welsh and aim to publish it all before the close of play on Friday to ensure the tennis community has time to implement things over the weekend. Our communication goes out after we’ve liaised and worked with Welsh Government, Sport Wales, Welsh Sports Association and the LTA to over 800 key people in our tennis network to implement, and to over 10,000 fans & followers on our social media platforms.

It’s worth mentioning that when writing this blog, I’ve framed it as a standard Monday – Friday, but in reality that’s not how we work. We know that tennis coaches are often on court, and need to contact us into the evening once they’re finished, or on social media over the weekend. We know that volunteers tend to liaise with us after they’ve finished work and so again, we always make ourselves available to support the tennis community in the way we need to.

With some of the initial Covid-19 restrictions continuing to lift across Wales, it’s been great for us to see so many people out playing. With the reintroduction of competitions and the opening of indoor tennis centres, I think the tennis community continues to do a superb job in managing the really difficult situation we all find ourselves in. Tennis Wales is a small team supported by the LTA, but it’s the 500+ volunteers, 170 coaches and the people who play that continue to drive our sport forwards.