Judy Murray believes tennis needs to shed its elitist tag, as she warns the sport is facing up to “a challenging time” as it struggles to attract youngsters into the game.
Speaking exclusively to Tennis365.com at The Campus, Quinta do Lago in Portugal’s Algarve, the mother of Grand Slam tennis champions Andy and Jamie Murray spoke with real passion about her desire to take tennis to a mass audience across her native Scotland and the rest of Britain.
Even though her sons have blazed a trail in the game with their Wimbledon triumphs in singles and doubles competition, the boom in participation in the sport across the UK has not materialised and now this inspiring heroine of the game has a burning desire to spread her love for tennis far and wide, with Judy telling us there are obstacles being placed in the path of progress in her sport.
“I have a great desire to drive the sport of tennis to a bigger audience and that has never waned throughout my 30 years of coaching,” began Murray, who will be running junior tennis camps at The Campus, Quinta do Lago, throughout 2019.
“Maybe I have been helped by the fact that I never got bogged down in the politics of the sport or institutionalised by it all. I still love what I do, but I sense that tennis is in a challenging time.
“We are competing with more distractions for our kids now than ever before. They have computer games, social media and so much more to lure them away from sport and we have to try and reverse that trend.
“If they try tennis and feel it is boring, too difficult or too cold, they will go and do something else. That’s the reality. We can’t just rely on people showing up to play our sport and we have to work harder to get people playing and keeping them there. Too many are slipping away from tennis at the moment and we have to reverse that trend.
“To do that, we need to find a way to make it cheap and doable for everyone to play as there has always been a feeling that it is a sport for the elite.
“One-on-one lessons will always be expensive, especially if you are adding court hire on top of costs. If you come from countries like Scotland or Ireland, where the weather is often an issues, you can pay up to £20-per-hour just to hire a court and that is before getting a coach in for a lesson. Those costs quickly become prohibitive for a lot of people.
“That is why I always embrace doing tennis lessons with a large number of people on the court. It makes it affordable and can be very enjoyable when a large group get together and share an experience. If you have 18 people in a lesson, it reduces the cost per person and that offers the scope to bring more people into the sport.
“When you look at a one-on-one lesson… a coach with a basket of balls, it can look daunting. It may feel like everyone is looking at me from the sidelines and I would not want that pressure if I was trying a sport for the first time. We have to work harder to sell our sport in a world where there are a variety of factor pulling people of all ages away from tennis.”
Murray’s drive to spread her tennis message and the coaching methods she used to set her sons Andy and Jamie on the road to remarkable success is highlighted by her ‘Tennis on the Road’ programme, as she travels around Scotland with her coaching sidekick Kris Soutar to spread the sport’s message to areas it would not normally reach.
“We take the van into deprived rural areas and teach people how to play tennis in whatever space they have available and it is has proved to be an incredibly rewarding programme,” she adds.
“My Foundation will help to fund this venture and the idea is to identify a number of project areas each, deprived or rural, and we will develop a workforce of coaches in that area that means when we move on to the next area, we have left it in very good hands. We have three projects that will get going in January.
“It’s a wonderful way to introduce the sport to people who may not normally get a chance to play and it also gets us away from the elitist issue that I believe we need to take out of tennis so it becomes a sport everyone feels comfortable to have a go at.”
Judy Murray spoke to Tennis365.com at The Campus, Quinta do Lago in Portugal’s Algarve, where she will be hosting junior tennis sessions in 2019. For more information call on +351 289 381 220 to book or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
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