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The Inner-City Diversity Project: Making tennis more accessible to communities in Birmingham

• 3 MINUTE READ

As we live our lives day to day, we can sometimes forget that not everyone has the same access to sport as each other. Barriers to sport come in many forms, cost, access to transport, accessibility, the list goes on and on.

The LTA Tennis Foundation is striving to remove these barriers to achieve its mission of improving lives through tennis. It does this in several ways, one of which is through its grant-making programme which focusses its funding on projects in underserved communities. Ones of these areas is inner city Birmingham, which, according to research, sits in the top 10% & 20% of the most deprived areas of the UK. 

The two main sports easily accessible to young people in inner city Birmingham are boxing and football which are very popular as a result, but if these are not your passion it can feel like there are limited options for other sports.   

Everyone4Sport, a community organisation, based in Birmingham, wanted to do something to help with this. Ian, the Founder of Everyone4Sport, a Tennis Coach by trade, has always been involved in sport. It has helped shape him as a person, given him confidence and hugely contributed to the person he is today. So, he thought, how can we offer the same opportunities to the ones who need them most?  

Through Everyone4Sport, Ian developed a new project to tackle these inequalities: The Inner-City Diversity Project. Ian knew the community well and had built strong relationships with key people through previous work, so knew he just had to join the dots to be able to deliver an impactful project that could change lives.  

Everyone4Sport kids on court playing tennis

What does the project look like?  

Delivered over two years, the project will primarily raise awareness of the game of tennis in underserved communities by delivering sessions in locations that present minimal barriers for the local community – this could be in faith venues, community centres, schools, or the local tennis club.  

All equipment would be provided, and sessions would be inclusive and interactive, making them enjoyable and accessible whilst laying the foundation for tennis skills.  

The aim is then to enable those who enjoy the sessions to transition into a local club to continue developing their tennis skills and benefiting from the wider impact of the sport and the community around a club.  

The power of positive roles models  

What makes this project stand out is the understanding that to really get buy in from the local community, and have the biggest impact, the person delivering the session needs to be seen as a role model that the children and young people can look up to and trust. With that in mind Ian and his team utilised their networks to identify key people in the communities they could train to deliver the sessions. This was done very successfully, and they have some great activators who are already established and respected members of the community.   

2024 Everyone4sport kids in court.jpg

Making tennis more accessible  

The children and families in the area are crying out for programmes like this one to help teach their children new skills and give them an outlet to channel their energy into something positive.  

When Ian and his team spoke to the families in the local area, they said that cost was the biggest barrier to accessing sport - either the equipment or the travel to the session. When we spoke to Ian, he said; “The need was even greater than I realised. 

The need was even greater than I realised

The Impact so far  

The impact of this project is already evident, a teacher from Sacred Heart School, where the programme is delivered said:  "Although tennis has always been part of our curriculum, we have struggled to find coaches to teach tennis to our children.

"This is usually taught by school staff rather than experts. Since having the coach in we have noticed a huge rise in Year 3 children asking for the tennis rackets and balls to be out for break and lunch times and have witnessed the children teaching other year groups skills they have been taught in their tennis lessons.  

There is one boy who is on our SEND register who shone during the tennis lessons, showing a real love for the sport and he has also built a very good rapport with the coach. We are working with the parents to give them more access to tennis outside of school.”  

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