Community Tennis

Kids take part at a SERVES Tennis Festival

SERVES is the LTA’s leading sport for development programme, helping bring tennis into local communities. It takes tennis and its benefits to places it has never been played before and to people who may never have picked up a racket or thought tennis was for them. 

We work with a range of national partners, including Sporting Equals, to take tennis out of its traditional areas and right to the heart of disadvantaged communities – specifically, into those facilities that younger people in those communities already access: youth clubs, community centres, church halls, mosques and temples. 

Community and social change

Beyond just getting people to play tennis, SERVES acts as a tool for social change. The programme is designed to help tackle some of the major issues faced by people in disadvantaged communities, such as high levels of unemployment, poor health prospects, physical inactivity and low self-esteem. It does this by giving young people the chance to develop valuable life skills, both on and off the tennis court, which in turn builds their confidence, health and employment prospects.

We work with over 160 organisations, delivering SERVES in over 200 community venues across the country. Over 10,000 young people have been engaged in the programme to date and over 600 coaches, youth workers, community and faith group leaders have been trained as tennis activators. It is only when these numbers are broken down though, that the role of the programme in opening up tennis becomes clear. Over three quarters of SERVES participants are from the 30% most deprived communities in the country, while over half are from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic groups. 

The programme plays a role in bringing diverse communities together, too. We hold a series of regional SERVES Festivals that see young people from a range of backgrounds come together and enjoy playing tennis.

How SERVES works

On-court action

We make it easy for people to try tennis by delivering it right in the heart of their community and offering fun, informal weekly tennis lessons with no dress code.

We use ‘pop-up’ courts so that sessions can be run almost anywhere, in places that are familiar to the community, such as a mosque or a community hall, and we provide all the equipment needed, such as rackets, balls and nets. By getting involved, having fun and learning a new skill, players grow in confidence and increase their activity levels.

Sessions are run by Tennis Activators, enthusiastic and inspiring people recruited from key organisations who are part of the local community. Aged typically between 18 and 22 years old, they will already have been involved in other sports programmes and are actively engaged with their community. We train them up to give them the skills and confidence they need to run successful tennis sessions in their community that suit their audience. For example, at one SERVES site in Manchester, Khizra Mosque - run by our partners Sporting Equals – sessions are consciously timed to begin immediately after children have been to mosque studies.

On-court learning

Once we’ve succeeded in getting young people in these communities to engage with us through playing tennis, we can then talk to them about their lives, their aspirations and the challenges they face, offering them support that can make a real difference to their lives.

As part of the SERVES sessions, players are introduced to a series of informal learning modules focusing on health, self-confidence and community cohesion. This social change programme uses tennis activities to engage the young people and help them develop life skills, for example teaching them how to set small challenges to achieve bigger goals

Learnings are designed to be applicable to the wider world to help players grow and develop. In this way, the fun and excitement of tennis becomes a tool to get disengaged communities involved in training and development activities that they might otherwise miss out on.

Get involved with SERVES

For community organisations that join the SERVES programme, we provide a free Tennis Activator course that trains community champions with basic tennis organisation and delivery skills to confidently run a session in a fun and informal way. We also provide a range of free dynamic and flexible resources including a pop up court, together with modified kit (soft balls, appropriately sized rackets and nets).

To make SERVES happen, we work closely with specialist national partners such as StreetGames and Sporting Equals. If you’re interested in finding out more about SERVES and how you or your community organisation can get involved, email us at info@lta.org.uk.