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Unlocking tennis: the impact of Barclays Free Park Tennis

3 MINUTE READ

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Park tennis courts play a crucial role in offering people of all ages and abilities the chance to pick up a racket, get active, and enjoy tennis. This is the essence of the Park Tennis Project, a nationwide initiative backed by a £30 million investment from the UK Government and the LTA Tennis Foundation.

Delivered by the LTA, the project has revitalised 1,800 public tennis courts across Britain. Among these are five transformed courts at Roehampton Playing Fields in Wandsworth.

A New Beginning for Roehampton Playing Fields

Reopened in June 2023, the Roehampton Playing Fields courts have undergone a transformative journey with a £104,755 investment. The refurbishments include resurfacing, the installation of gates, an online booking platform, and the introduction of a Barclays Free Park Tennis offering. This initiative provides free, social tennis sessions every weekend, facilitated in Roehampton by operator Emma Wells Tennis.

Emma Wells, Head of Coach Education for the Professional Tennis Registry, has been at the forefront of these Barclays Free Park Tennis sessions in Roehampton. With over 20 years of experience as a club owner, LTA tutor Emma reflects on her journey:

“I started playing around 30 years ago, initially to beat my tennis-loving brother!

My passion grew as I watched Wimbledon with my grandmother as a child and have been lucky to have worked in many countries worldwide including USA, Australia, Denmark, Egypt and Greece. Five years ago, I founded the other site in Wimbledon Park and today I am so happy to see the Free Parks Tennis sessions running. All of these are fully volunteer led and truly embedded into the community."

 

Since the courts reopened seven months ago, Emma has collaborated with local schools catering to learning difficulties and the local youth football team, Doverhouse Lions. With a dedicated team of four volunteers, the Barclays Free Park Tennis sessions have been at full capacity, offering sessions ranging from youth tennis for kids, to seniors with walking tennis. This has created a vibrant and diverse tennis community at the Roehampton Park courts.

“Before the park tennis project, the courts were neglected, primarily used for football. Now, the refurbished courts themselves have created a thriving community of players, always buzzing with activity.

We see families, father-son duos, and kids playing alongside adults, nurturing young talent and promoting intergenerational play.”

 

Inspiring Stories on the Court

Among the regular Barclays Free Park Tennis attendees is Valente, an inspiring player who competes in both Para Standing and Wheelchair Tennis. Valente is a key part of the inclusive community created by the renovated courts, motivating others to embrace tennis, build social connections and get active through the Barclays Free Park Tennis offering.

“The newly refurbished tennis courts are a fantastic addition to our community, offering people of all backgrounds the chance to stay active, have fun, and connect.

A heartfelt shout-out goes to my regular playing buddies, Hans and Kim, as well as the dedicated activators Aljaz, Sara and Antonio. Thanks to their support and the Parks Tennis scheme, I have gained enough confidence to compete in the 2024 Para Standing Tennis World Championships in Turin.”

 

Valente has been able to enjoy the Free Park Tennis sessions and build new social connections, thanks to the four volunteer activators who deliver these sessions.

One of those, Sara, who works in sales at The Hurlingham Club, was herself a player in the program. Sara loves being a part of the community. Others include Aljaz, a local to Roehampton Playing Fields, who wanted to give back to the community; Antonio, who takes time out from family life to meet new people and get involved with new activities via being an Activator; and Kate, who’s passion for sport and inclusion led her to becoming an Activator.

Get involved

Want to try out Free Park Tennis? Learn more about the programme and find a session near you:

Find a session

Become an Activator and help out at your local Free Park Tennis session. You could even start a new session at your nearest court, bringing free tennis to your community!

Become an Activator

Barclays Free Park Tennis

Free, social tennis sessions, every weekend, in a park court near you. Find out more about Barclays Free Park Tennis and how to book your local session.

Park Tennis Project

The Parks Tennis Project is a nationwide investment by the UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation, delivered by the LTA, to refurbish public tennis courts and open up the sport.

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