Meet the coach taking tennis into mosques in Bradford
• 4 MINUTE READ
Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, we are using LTA channels to celebrate some of the incredible women within our sport, giving them an opportunity to share their story and their passion for tennis.
For Yorkshire-based sports coach Nalette Tucker, providing the opportunity for many young people to get involved in sport has always been a life-long ambition.
In 2014, Nalette set up the Sunnah Sports Academy Trust – a registered charity offering sport lessons, including tennis coaching, to communities in Bradford.
Four years later, she began delivering tennis sessions in a host of faith-based schools, churches, and mosques through the LTA SERVES programme.
An inspirational role model for many young women and girls in her community – we caught up with Nalette to find out more about her journey and how she is paving the way for the next generation of players and coaches.
“I first started delivering tennis after going to an inclusive workshop where I discovered a project called SERVES, which the LTA were hoping to get into the community,” says Nalette.
“I’ve always loved tennis – I was never fantastic at it, I’m a bit too heavy handed, but I loved it – so I jumped on the chance to do the activator training and we went from there.
“We started delivering sessions in schools and in faith settings, like mosques, in Bradford. Everyone got on board and loved it, so it stuck!
“In Bradford there is a large Muslim community and for the average Muslim child, they will go to school from 8:30am-3:30pm and then go home, get changed and go to the mosque from 5-7pm – so the kids would always say they didn’t have time.
“We came up with an initiative where we would go into the mosques and offer to deliver sessions for free, provide all the equipment and train up their staff, just so we could come in for an hour to do some sport.
“It took off and now we’re working with 20 organisations in Bradford, giving children access to physical education that they wouldn’t normally have outside of school.”
Through her work in the local community, Nalette has seen a growing shift in perceptions around tennis and believes diverse role models are the key to keeping young kids engaged.
“I definitely think perceptions are starting to change – the SERVES programme helps normalise the sport so they don’t see it as something that isn’t for them,” she said. “They believe that if they want to play tennis, they can.
“We try to pull on tennis players that they can relate to so Heather Watson is a perfect example – the kids are like ‘wow she has the same hair as me’, they love it.
“Having role models that they can relate and look up to is very important – what Heather has done for young women and girls in the UK is amazing.”
For Nalette however, her biggest role models come from the world of coaching – some closer to home than others.
“One of my proudest moments was meeting Judy Murray on a course that I went to through SERVES – I have a picture with her at home,” she said.
“Meeting her was a definite goal of mine – in terms of female coaches, she is the best for me. What she’s done for the sport and for women is fantastic.
“We run a programme that allows us to have four junior female coaches aged 16-20, all from BAME backgrounds, who are completing courses at the moment to become the next generation of coaches. During the pandemic they have just been incredible for me and I’d say they definitely a huge inspiration.”
For many coaches and people working in sport, the pandemic has thrown up its fair share of challenges over the last year, especially when it comes to keeping people active.
“The first lockdown really threw me and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said. “But within a couple of weeks we had set up online classes and leadership courses. The LTA supplied us with free kit bags so we were able to donate 73 tennis rackets into the community and run sport sessions for those families online.
“When we were allowed to do the rule of six we began running sessions outside in parks and even in people’s gardens at home – within restrictions. It was great!
“We just want to provide as many opportunities for the community as is feasibly possible – I love what I do and that’s what motivates me. Receiving text messages saying ‘the kids have been loving getting in the garden with their tennis rackets during lockdown’ makes everything that we do feel worth it.”