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Meet the Scottish tennis prodigy juggling studies with coaching in parks


Olivia Smart is a local tennis star who first played tennis at the Falkirk Lawn Tennis Club aged seven. Fast forward little more than twelve years and the Edinburgh University fresher is the youngest level three qualified coach in Scotland, running a coaching programme at the newly refurbished Zetland Park and Dollar Park tennis courts and other venues alongside managing her Business and Enterprise degree.

Smart’s journey in coaching started in 2019 at 15, but for the 19-year-old it wasn’t until after the Covid pandemic hit that she admits having “really got the bug for it.”

“It wasn’t until I was finishing my Level Two that it really hit me that I’d be able to begin delivering my own coaching sessions,” added Smart. “After that I applied and started to deliver sessions through Falkirk Council, which was a great opportunity that gave me the opportunity to coach independently.”

Following a fully competitive tender process, Falkirk Council appointed Olivia Smart Tennis Coaching as the official coaching provider at Dollar Park, which along with Zetland Park, is benefitting from a £32,500 transformation as part of the UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation funded Park Project.

For Smart, who markets her tennis coaching enterprise on Facebook and Instagram, the last few years have been about grabbing opportunities to both further her skills and grow her coaching credentials.

“Tennis Scotland have been a great help, making sure I have access to all of the professional development programmes and sessions they are running, linking me into local clubs and tennis venues, and helping me access grants that make it cheaper for me to further my education as a coach.”

This has worked well for Smart, as well as hundreds of budding tennis players in Falkirk and also in Edinburgh as Smart’s 1-1 and group coaching programmes have flourished across venues.


To play on a park, people can just book and come along, so you often get to work with people who are new to the game.

“Earlier this year I delivered Prime Video LTA Youth Girls sessions at four local clubs, and it was really rewarding to coach 70 girls playing tennis for the very first time,” said Smart before adding, “I’m doing something similar in terms of sessions I’m running at Dollar Park.

“Coaching is funny because one moment you might feel like players perhaps aren’t improving and you start to question your own methods, then something clicks in the players and suddenly you have five-year-olds playing tennis matches against each other! It’s great to play a part in making that happen.”

Juggling time between University in Edinburgh and at home in Falkirk, Smart provided an insight into what an average week looks like:

“On Monday’s I’m coaching nursery school pupils in the day, and the Inchyra Tennis Club girls in the evening. Tuesday I’m in Edinburgh doing junior and adult coaching. On Wednesday I focus on my studies alongside 1-1 coaching. On Thursday I’ve got classes before hightailing it for girls and ladies coaching at Dollar Park. Fridays are based at Mortonhall in Edinburgh and on Saturday and Sunday I do junior coaching at Linlithgow and Inchyra in the Falkirk area, as well as coach some of the 30 individual clients I currently support.”


It’s a full-on schedule that reflects a clear ambition to develop her life as a self-starter.

“Unsurprisingly for someone studying business I’d really like to build a company and it may well be in tennis. I’d really like to be a head coach, running my own tennis programme and building that from the ground up. Olivia Smart Tennis Coaching is just six months old and it’s doing well, so let’s see. My mum runs a wedding dress shop, so maybe she’d let me get involved in that – hah! It’s great to have her expertise to draw upon.”

For now Smart’s is the story of a young coach juggling one (tennis) ball at a time and the sense of fulfilment of getting people active through tennis and the positive impact that has on the tennis ecosystem in her area.

“Tennis clubs are modelled on membership, but to play on a park people can just book and come along, so you often get to work with people who are new to the game. I’m now seeing the kids from Prime Video LTA Youth Girls and a 5–8-year-old development squad rocking up to the local tennis club’s I coach and play at.

“Park tennis allows kids and adults to develop a love for tennis before committing to a club. I’ve seen a number of girls and ladies now start playing in parks, move to clubs and begin competing in local leagues and team tennis.

“The conversion rate from park to club is great and it’s lovely to play a part in that!”

Parks Tennis Project

Through the Park Tennis Project, we are delivering a £30million UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation investment to transform thousands of park tennis courts across Britain.

Find out more

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