Record growth, performance development & building on our foundations: Tom Murray on padel progress in 2023
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Since 2019 we have embarked on a journey to integrate, build, grow and scale padel across Great Britain. In that time, we have invested £5m to develop infrastructure and grow participation.
There are now 350 padel courts in Great Britain (600% more than 2019) and 135 registered venues, with plans for further development through into 2024 and beyond.
Hear from Tom Murray, Head of Padel at the LTA, as he looks back on the key areas of growth in 2023 and how we’re setting up for more success in the future.
Record growth for infrastructure
When I look back at the last year in padel, I think there are three key areas to our development. Firstly, infrastructure – it’s been a record year in growth for the total number of padel courts in Britain. We’ve built around 130 new courts compared to around 70 last year so that’s a significant increase.
We know that we still have a long way to go. The demand for playing padel is very high and courts are often fully booked out at peak times, but we’re on the right track to get there. We want to keep building on this growth year-on-year and it will hopefully be a great stepping stone to continue on our trajectory.
We’ve also had a record number of competitions this year – over 200 events have been held across Great Britain, which has been fantastic. We’re learning so much each year about the best ways to run these, what players want, etc, and we’re already looking at different things we can do to improve for 2024.
We’re open to consider different strategies so this can continue to build in the future, including heightened experiences for players at the grassroots level, which we know is expected more in padel. The recreational competitions landscape is different in padel compared to tennis and I think it’s a big opportunity for us to continue to grow participation in the future.
Foundations set to take performance to a new level
The second point is around performance. At the beginning of the year, we hired Matt Stanforth to come in as our new Padel Performance Manager here at the LTA. He’s now had almost a whole year in the role, absorbing the landscape of the game and now really developing a plan to take the game forward. He’s been setting up a load of camps for players as well, including a junior performance camp last week, which hosted 40 young players in the first weekend of its kind here in Great Britain.
In addition to Matt joining the team, we now have much more structure that we can offer to our elite players. That includes financial support as well as enhancing their training and competition environments. Today is like tennis 20 years ago – the players need to be based out in Spain and we’re now able to provide that set up for a good five players, with plans to expand that in the near future.
The professional padel tours merging next year will mean that all the men and women will be competing at the same events, which will be much better for the players. We now have more GB players competing more regularly on the international tour with Christian Medina Murphy and Tia Norton now ranked inside the top 150, closely followed by Sam Jones (166) and Lisa Phillips (238) as our highest ranked players on the FIP rankings.
This presents us with opportunities to continue to put on more lower-end international tournaments next year, which we’ll know more about that in the new year. This year we held a record three FIP Tour level events, which was the most pro-level events we’ve ever had in Britain.
Next year we also have the World Championships, which is exciting and a great opportunity for our GB teams to play against the top teams in the world.
It’s going to be challenging – we’re going to have more players competing at these events so the standard will be really high and there’s more countries taking part. However, we’ve recently brought in former top-10 player Jordi Muñoz to coach and support our British men’s team and we’ll be looking to make a similar appointment on the women’s side as well, which we hope will elevate our teams performances in these competitions.
Improved ways of working across the board
The third factor would be ways of working – both with the regional teams and also venues from new sectors. As an organisation we haven’t been used to lots of new venues popping up all the time – it doesn’t happen so often in tennis – so we’re trying to take a more proactive approach here.
Workforce development is also going to be really key for us moving forward. Without enough coaches all venues, player pathways, etc are going to struggle – so training up enough coaches to support our player-base and meet demand is something we need to focus on.
We’ve implemented a coaching pathway, which is ready to go and has been delivered by our Coach Development Centre network so it’s in a good place for us to build on. That’s one of the real benefits of padel being a part of the LTA – we can use existing infrastructure and processes to help grow the game further for the future.
Next year is all about taking the foundations that we’ve already laid and going up another level. We’ve gone through the Padel Development Plan which has enabled us to get ready and prepare for future growth and we’re in a good place right now whereby the sport is fully integrated into the organisation.
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