LTA SERVES Activator Chris Herbert on getting kids in the capital active through sport
• 5 MINUTE READ
West London sports coach and youth worker, Chris Herbert, is passionate about bringing positive change to the lives of young people in his community. Inspired by role models from his childhood, Chris champions the impact of sport on shaping the next generation in all walks of life.
We spoke to Chris to support our series of articles for Black History Month and this year’s theme of ‘Proud to Be’, inviting Black and Brown people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are proud to be.
Almost five years ago Chris set up Fit For Life Youth, a not for profit organisation that mentor and coach young people, using sport as the vehicle.
“I had some really good coaches growing up and they had a big impact on me,” said Chris.
“One of the key things I got from sport growing up, was the life skills that it taught me, and how you can use these skills to take on the challenges life throws at you.
“That’s why we first set up Fit For Life Youth to help young people find themselves and live their life in a better way, through sport health and fitness which is an incredibly important part of a child's development.”
“We were lucky in my area growing up that there were a lot of diverse sports going on and a lot of access at the time. I realised as I got older that open access to sport for people that couldn’t necessarily afford to take part was not as readily available, so we tried to fill that gap with Fit for Life Youth.”
Chris and his coaching team at Fit For Life Youth have been delivering the LTA SERVES programme for the last five months and it’s the latest sport as a part of their coaching offering that also includes football, boxing and basketball.
Helping to take tennis to new people and new places
LTA SERVES is a sport for development programme, which takes tennis into the heart of local communities to people who may have never picked up a racket or thought tennis was for them. The programme encourages young people from higher areas of deprivation across the UK to get active and involved in tennis, having fun with friends, keeping mentally and physically fit all while learning new skills and increasing their self-confidence.
“The LTA have been great in how they have allowed us to access this programme,” said Chris.
“Playing tennis at locations within the community tends to be behind a paywall so unless tennis activators are delivering sessions through SERVES, it isn’t necessarily a sport the children will play.
“I think young people should have access to play all different types of sport, because they learn different things and there are transferable skills that they can take from it.”
“What I like about the programme is the accessibility and the brilliant resources provided online. We have a lot of trainee coaches and volunteer coaches so for them, they can learn the basics and entry level aspects online and if they want to take that coaching further, they can do that, so as well as the children, coaches are benefitting too.”
The positive impact role models within a community
Chris is a true believer in the positive impact role models within a community can have on the lives of the young people living in it. There were two main role models in his life that played that role for him in his teenage years.
“There were two youth workers that were pivotal figures in my life and they put in a lot of work into me and my group of friends in my football team. Only now, retrospectively as an adult, looking back we see that what they did for us was incredible. When you are young, we were like 15, we didn’t really realise how much of their own personal self they were putting into us.”
“One is called Rick and the other Ola, who was originally from Nigeria, and whenever I talk about my inspirations I will always big them up because they definitely shaped the way I am today and that was done through football. After football training we would go and eat and just talk and they could relate because they had been through things that we were going through.”
“When I was setting up Fit For Life Youth I always had in my mind the impact these men had on my life and I just wanted to replicate that and pass that onto someone else, because they definitely had a big impact.”
As we celebrate Black History Month Chris talks about how having this month to recognise and shine a light on the many positive stories and individuals making a difference is a good thing.
“It’s great, especially given the current climate we have had over the last year or two, so it’s good to get that recognition of the history and the things that black people have been through. The month shines a light on our experiences as people and people doing things for their community and the wider community as well.”
Find out more
To find out more about the LTA SERVES programme and how to get involved, please click here.
To find out more about Fit For Life Youth, please click here.
The LTA Inclusion Strategy sets out how the LTA will continue to change the culture of tennis in Britain to be more inclusive, which is absolutely central to our Vision of Tennis Opened Up. To find out more about the strategy, please click here.
Black History Month
Black History Month takes place across the month of October and aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black history. This year’s theme is ‘Proud to Be’, inviting Black and Brown people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are proud to be.