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Drone shot of Marke Wood park tennis courts

Parent to Park Activator: growing the game on refurbished tennis courts


“Why isn’t there more tennis around here?” This is the question Karen Hodgson, from Walmer in Dover on the South East coast of England, found herself pondering as her son Sam fell in love with tennis in the late 2000s.

Up to that point, Karen’s favourite sport was football, and the pharmaceutical professional who put her career on pause to raise her son Sam and daughter Katie, began to scope out more opportunities for Sam to play tennis.

Karen’s local tennis courts in Marke Wood have been transformed as part of the Parks Tennis Project, a £30 million investment from the UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation, refurbishing 3,000 public tennis courts across the nation and opening up the game to many more people. Since reopening, the courts at Marke Wood have seen over 1,400 court hours booked, 400 unique users of the venue and 200 annual pass holders.

“I always loved sport, and at that time was a parent volunteer running a local girls football team, but when I saw the confidence and passion that tennis brought out in Sam I began to seek out more opportunities for him to play. Tennis helped bring my son out of his shell – because he got into tennis, I got into tennis.“

As Sam’s desire to play grew, so did the mileage in the family car as Karen supported her son’s desire to compete and access further coaching opportunities. Having seen the incredible mark the sport continues to leave on Sam’s life, when her kids grew older, Karen sought to widen this positive impact beyond the family and into the local community, through growing tennis in and around Walmer.


There is so much scope to grow tennis in the area and we were crying out for the park tennis courts at Marke Wood to be brought back to life.

“I was delighted to take a part-time job delivering sports at the Deal Parochial Church of England Primary School in 2017, where I teach tennis, cricket, netball and lots of other sports.”

“It was through my Free Park Tennis Activator training that I built my own skills. There is so much scope to grow tennis in the area and we were crying out for the park tennis courts at Marke Wood to be brought back to life.”

Karen’s Activator training sees her run Free Park Tennis sessions, free weekly sessions at the weekend where equipment is provided, allowing opportunities for the local community to pick up a racket and get on court no matter their age, background or ability.

Until last year, the local park courts at Marke Wood had become unplayable. As a result of a £71,000 invested as part of the Parks Tennis Project, the four-court site was resurfaced and repainted, with a gate access system, making it far easier for players like Sam and Activators like Karen can pick up a racket and get on court.

Become a Free Park Tennis Activator

Want to help more people play tennis for free in your community? Find out more about becoming a Free Park Tennis Activator.

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