The Lawn Tennis Association is hoping to broaden the sport’s reach through a new partnership with the Scouts.
A programme of activities designed to introduce the organisation’s Beaver groups aged six to eight to the basic skills of the sport has been developed based on the LTA’s new Youth Start programme.
The LTA has made diversifying the sport at all levels its major goal and, with the activities able to be delivered in a wide range of different settings, it hopes this three-year partnership will see tennis reach more children and communities.
Jo-Anne Downing, the governing body’s products and programmes manager, told the PA news agency: “We want to partner with organisations that are going to be able to help us encourage more kids from all different backgrounds to get active through tennis.
“We do a lot through clubs and we do a lot through schools but, to me, the Scouts and the Guides is that community channel. It’s tennis in a non-traditional tennis place.”
The LTA, which has set a target of 10 per cent of children playing the sport once a week in Britain by 2023, announced a project with Girlguiding last year to try to encourage more women and girls to take up tennis.
Playing tennis can help Beavers achieve the Sport Activity Badge, while those who are keen or who show an aptitude will be encouraged to take that interest further.
Matt Payler, the Scouts’ partnership development manager, believes the collaboration comes at exactly the right time.
He said: “We’re always looking for unique ways in which we can deliver the Scouting programme and tennis is a really good mechanism for this.
“Especially in the post-pandemic world, it’s so important to get young people back out and participating in sport and obviously that then has such a huge benefit to their positive mental wellbeing.
“We were really keen to develop a programme that would make a sport like tennis as accessible as possible. It allows Scout groups to do tennis-based activities in pretty much any environment. We’re really excited to have Beaver groups taking part in this.”
Activities range from those developing hand-eye co-ordination and decision-making skills to a challenge for Beavers to make their own tennis rackets out of paper plates and use them to hit balloons.
Like the LTA, the Scouts has put a major focus on diversifying its appeal, with Payler saying: “It’s been a really important part of our strategy for a long time now, but especially over the last year we’ve found groups in the highest areas of deprivation, they’re already at a greater disadvantage.
“We’ve run fundraisers to save 500 Scout groups at risk of closure. It’s so important to be developing programmes to give these groups the opportunity to do these really exciting activities at almost no cost at all. Scouts is very inclusive and we want to reach out to as many communities as possible.”