LTA targets park tennis revolution as players flock back on court after coronavirus lockdown
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The LTA is launching a major drive to grow participation in tennis in parks in local communities throughout the country, supporting local authorities with a comprehensive cost-free offer to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities through tennis, and ensure their tennis venues are sustainable for the future.
'Park tennis facilities are absolutely crucial to us achieving increased and sustained participation'
The governing body for tennis in Britain has developed a package of initiatives to support park tennis facilities and open up the sport to more people, including over 1,000 priority target parks across Britain. The strategic programme of activity includes the roll out of free technology solutions to improve accessibility and the player experience, exciting parks-based competition and programmed activity to drive regular play, development of a range of sustainable operating models and interest free quick access loans for facility improvements. This is complemented by the LTA’s regional delivery team, who can help Local Authorities take advantage of and implement these opportunities.
'Tennis is a brilliant sport for the whole family to enjoy'
Tennis plays a unique role in keeping the nation active, as a sport that can be played by all, no matter their age, gender, background or ability, and as both an entry point to tennis and a hub for regular social play, park courts are central to this. The sport provides significant proven physical and mental health benefits to participants, brings individuals and communities together, tackling loneliness and encouraging social cohesion, and helps develop important life skills and resilience.
Park tennis courts are vital in helping open up the sport and these benefits anyone who wants to play, with nearly 1.5 million people playing on park courts in the last 12 months and almost half being from lower socio-economic groups. The LTA’s package of initiatives will support local authorities to provide flexible, free and low-cost opportunities for anyone to pick up a racket and get active through tennis on park courts.
Insight shows that whilst there is huge latent demand to play tennis, the key barriers to participating are finding and booking a court, and finding someone to play with. Increasingly, potential players want a more simple, convenient and flexible way to play the sport, often without the commitment or cost of joining a club.
To address this, the LTA has launched its online booking system, a new free digital platform to help people search for tennis activities in their area and make it easier for people to find and book a court, book a lesson, play a match or find free tennis events. This tool has been developed to work hand-in-hand with gate access systems, with these being offered to local authorities for parks in over 1000 identified priority locations on a fully funded basis as part of a £7m grant investment programme by the LTA.
As part of the plans, the LTA has also acquired ‘Local Tennis Leagues’, which offers friendly, competitive tennis for thousands of adults. The acquisition comes with a plan to scale the delivery of the leagues to more park sites across the county, and an exciting opportunity to create mass participation in grass roots competitive tennis as part of regular, community focussed events in a friendly environment.
Local Tennis Leagues is part of a range of products and programmed activity that can be run at park sites. It is included alongside LTA Youth, the LTA’s innovative and industry leading new junior programme, LTA Big Tennis Weekends to help tennis venues attract the local community to come and try the sport at fun and welcoming open days, and weekly opportunities to take part in the sport for free through the LTA’s partnership with Tennis for Free.
Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive, said:
“Park tennis facilities are absolutely crucial to us achieving increased and sustained participation levels in our sport, and so the development of this work has been a central priority since we launched our new strategy last year and our work to make tennis relevant, accessible, welcoming and enjoyable to anyone.
“As park tennis courts open back up following the easing of restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, the LTA is determined to work in partnership with local authorities to safeguard park tennis venues up and down the country, drive participation in tennis in parks and help open up the sport and its benefits to many more people.
“We now have a ready-to-go offer in place for local authorities, with our online booking system and gate access systems both easy to implement, while exciting acquisitions like Local Tennis Leagues and our range of programmed activity ensure park facilities will be able to offer something for everyone.”
Nigel Huddleston, Sports Minister, said:
"Normally at this time of year we'd be looking forward to the start of Wimbledon, but there is no reason why we can't hit the tennis courts ourselves. Tennis is a brilliant sport for the whole family to enjoy and can be done easily with social distancing, so I welcome the steps the LTA is taking to open up local courts and encourage everyone to pick up their rackets."
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Full details of each element of LTA cost-free off to support Local Authorities detailed below:
Online booking system
Central to the plans has been the development of the LTA's new digital platform to help people search for tennis activities in their area and make it easier for people to book a court. The platform was launched this year with over 300 park sites around the country already taking bookings through the site, and this month will see the roll out of its next phase of development to allow people to book group coaching, play a match or find free tennis events.
Acting as an aggregator, the online booking system collects all booking and coaching information via partner venues booking pages and displays it for participants in one easy-to-view page, helping to remove what insight has shown to be a major barrier to increased participation in the sport in parks.
Gate Access Systems
The online booking system has also been developed to work hand-in-hand with gate access systems, where participants receive a code when a booking is made to access courts and get active through tennis. These systems are being offered to local authorities for parks in over 1000 identified priority locations on a fully funded basis as part of a £7m investment programme by the LTA, with installations in place around the country already demonstrating success.
The 1,000 target park sites have been identified based on their potential to have a significant impact on improving accessibility to tennis for the local community and opportunity for a higher volume of people playing, using a combination of information from the Active Places database, on the ground knowledge and insight from the LTA’s regional teams, and geodemographic mapping software.
Local Tennis Leagues
As part of the plans, the LTA has also acquired ‘Local Tennis Leagues’, which offers friendly, competitive tennis for thousands of adults. The acquisition comes with a plan to scale the delivery of the leagues to more park sites across the county, and an exciting opportunity to create mass participation in grass roots tennis competitive tennis as part of regular, community focussed events in a friendly environment. Local, fun and social competitive opportunities, like those provided by Local Tennis Leagues, have been shown to be a great way to encourage people to play more regularly – we aspire for this to be the first step in creating the tennis equivalent to parkrun.
Find out more about the LTA's acquisition of Local Tennis Leagues here.
Tennis for Free
The LTA’s partnership with Tennis for Free helps provide weekly opportunities to take part in the sport for free in local communities, with a particular focus on families from lower-socio-economic groups.
Other Tennis Products and Programmes
The acquisition of Local Tennis Leagues and the partnership with Tennis for Free enables the LTA to include them as part of a range of products and programmed activity to be run at park sites. These include LTA Youth, the LTA’s innovative and industry leading new junior programme, and LTA Big Tennis Weekends to help tennis venues attract the local community to come and try the sport at fun and welcoming open days.
Park Operating Models
Different parks or clusters of parks need different operating models to be successful, and so the LTA have developed a flexible set of best practice models based on experiences of a range of successful and sustainable park sites across Britain.
Whether a local authority owns and operates a park venue or cluster of venues themselves, through a leisure trust or not-for-profit partner, or courts are operated by local community groups, an applicable operating model has been developed. Through its regional team, the LTA is also able to support with the recruitment, training and retention of the right tennis workforce.
Quick Access Loans
High quality environments in parks are elsewhere have been shown to have a positive impact on participation levels, and investment can help to provide a better playing experience for the local community.
The LTA’s interest-free Quick Access Loan scheme can help support local authorities or operators further develop park tennis facilities, with loans of up to £250k are available and prioritised for improvements such as low cost indoor buildings and installation of new floodlights. Consideration for funding will also be given to projects that include court surface upgrades to all year-round playing surfaces, new tennis courts, padel courts, accessible facilities that cater for disabled players and innovation to drive membership, usage and tennis participation.