Judy Murray has called for changes to be made to the way competitive junior tennis is structured in the UK, as she believes an organised fixture list could boost participation and enthusiasm among young players.
In an era when the younger generation are obsessed by technology and more reluctant than ever to engage in sport, the mother of Grand Slam tennis champions Andy and Jamie Murray has spoken exclusively to Tennis365 about her vision for a rebranded junior tournament schedule.
Speaking passionately about a subject close to her heart, Murray told us that the way tournaments are arranged could be tweaked to make them more enjoyable for young players and easier to manage for their parents.
“Coaches or people who run club activity need to introduce kids to fun competitions at a young age and we need to ensure we don’t make things too competitive too quickly,” begins Judy, speaking to us at The Campus, Quinta do Lago Sport. “We need to make sure our sport is fun and keeps junior players of all ages engaged.
“What we need is a programme where we have opportunities to compete at the level they want. This is especially the case for young girls, who tend to be less keen on individual competition and tend to gravitate towards team sports. Of course, tennis is a lot about playing singles and being out there on your own from a young age and we need to make sure kids are ready for that before we put them in that position.
“That is why I feel we need a lot more doubles matches and team competitions, as that may be more appealing to a wider pool of young players.
“I also like the idea of having a fixture list in tennis. We have that with netball, hockey and football teams and it means kids and parents know where they will be playing next and there is a structure to it all. Then it becomes something they do with their friends, a fun activity with a little bit of competition added in. We don’t really have that in tennis at this moment because at the moment, it is generally up to parents to enter children into competitions on an individual basis.
“With other sports, it is easier to work out when a tournament is going to start and finish. There tend to be time limits set and as a parent and a junior player, you can plan your day around the tournament. With tennis, matches can go on longer than you expect and that can put people off playing.”
The inspiration of the Judy Murray Foundation is encouraging children of all ages to get involved in tennis every week, as she insists the element of fun needs to be at the heart of competitive tennis.
“I would advocate more coaches putting on fun recreational tournament programmes and welcoming kids of all abilities to join in,” adds Judy.
“They should also be encouraging competitive tennis within their club coaching sessions and that way, kids are being encouraged to compete and get used to that element of tennis. Make it competitive, make it challenging, but make it fun. That is the best way to engage young minds.
“There is far too much coaching going on now and not enough playing the game, so that element of our club coaching needs to be tweaked.”
“Sport will always be about competing and that element needs to be introduced at the right time for your tennis players, but coaching cannot be just about going to endless coaching sessions and learning how to hit a ball. We need to keep kids engaged and interested and introduce a competitive element at the right time.”
Judy Murray spoke to Tennis365 at The Campus, Quinta do Lago, the ultimate holiday destination for all tennis lovers. https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/tennis-padel/
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