In Blackpool and across Britain tennis lovers keep rallying rain or shine
• 3 MINUTE READ
With over 1,500 tennis courts transformed so far through the LTA delivered Park Project, a new wave of Brits are enjoying tennis in welcoming refurbished park courts, whatever the time of year and the weather.
Tennis participation is booming, but nearly half as many people play tennis in January as they do in June, which is the quietest month to play across the country. While weather conditions put off some, for three budding park tennis players at Stanley Park in Blackpool, the elements won’t stop them picking up their rackets.
These park courts reopened in August following a £217,000 UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation transformation, delivered by the LTA in partnership with Blackpool Council, which has given a new lease of life to these and other park tennis courts across the coastal town in the North West of England.
For Maddie, playing tennis has always been an aspiration, but it wasn’t until Stanley Park operators We Do Tennis C.I.C and Active Blackpool published a call for Free Park Tennis ‘Activators’ that she realised the opportunity to play tennis wasn’t not too far from her doorstep, and turned her longtime aspiration into a reality.
Free Park Tennis is a new programme being rolled out across Britain on weekend mornings for people of all abilities which is delivered by volunteers, with equipment provided. It’s a programme primarily targeting new and returning tennis players and is all about having a good time. A nationwide effort is ongoing to get more volunteers on board to deliver these fun, enjoyable and welcoming sessions.
Speaking about her tennis journey, Maddie said: “I tried to find a tennis coach a few years ago but was unsuccessful and was resigned that I may never play. When an email went around about Free Park Tennis, I told my husband that we have to get involved!”
“I attended a few sessions and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Our lives are so stressful. Whenever I am on court I am so happy – it’s an unbelievable happiness, even when the weather is windy and cold. It’s the love for tennis and the motivation I’ve gotten since I started that has been really powerful.”
Maddie soon found out about coaching taking place in the courts delivered by Andy Moss at We Do Tennis C.I.C and quickly signed up.
“It’s been very enjoyable," she said. "In a short space of time I went from having never played, to joining an eight-week coaching programme that starts following the Free Park Tennis sessions on Saturday mornings and it’s really helped me to grow my love for playing tennis. Andy is a great coach who makes learning the game so much fun!”
Despite playing through an injury for several weeks and taking a break to recover, Maddie is excited to get back on court and working on her game again.
“This is my dream. I never wanted to be Emma Raducanu but to play on the courts and have a rally around has been so enjoyable.”
Maddie isn’t the only one from Stanley Park who’s gotten into tennis since the courts were refurbished and ran by Operators We Do Tennis C.I.C, where Free Park Tennis and other community programmes that aim to get under-represented communities in tennis playing the sport are running.
Married couple Tyler and Courtney both started playing at Stanley Park after seeing the promotion of Free Park Tennis, but each for different reasons.
Courtney initially followed Tyler – who played tennis as a child – but was of the view that tennis and sport in general weren’t really for her. Courtney said: “Before the courts reopened I had no experience playing tennis. I’ve never particularly liked sports or thought that sports are for me. Free Park Tennis and the coaching sessions in the parks are really enjoyable. They have changed how I look at tennis and sport.
“The tennis related exercises we do during the Free Park Tennis sessions allowed me to have fun learning how to play and have made learning easier. To follow that with the coaching has allowed me to keep improving.”
Tyler was inspired to get back into tennis not just to enjoy the game and be active, but in order to meet people in his local area and get him out of his comfort zone.
“I’m really enjoying the social side of things. We’ve already built a lovely community of people who come to the courts every week. Enjoying time together playing tennis has been great and I’m looking at things we can start to do together outside of the courts.”
Both Tyler and Courtney have both gotten a lot from playing, and have pledged to keep working on their games with a view of joining a local club in the future. For Courtney, who has had issues with her back, the physical activity has helped in a few important ways.
“Since playing tennis my pain has been much more manageable,” said Courtney before adding, “I thought it would be the opposite, but it’s been great. Tennis is also teaching me to stay calm, be patient and wait rather than just whacking it. These practices are a handy life lesson too!”
In the meantime they are both happy to take full advantage of the free and low-cost opportunities to play in their local park. Courtney and Tyler are both currently doing Free Park Activator Training and are inspired to help get more people into tennis.
Park Tennis Project
This is the first of a series of articles on the impact the £30million UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation park tennis investment is having on people and communities.
Free Park Tennis is beginning to roll out at refurbished park tennis courts across Britain. Want to meet people and help in your local community through tennis?