LTA Faces Mounting Pressure

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Post by Guest on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 8:16 am

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/tennis/22902803

It seems Sport England have got their teeth into the LTA and are not so willing to loosen the grip. Phil Smith Director of Sport England is keen to increase participation.

I find it disappointing that with Henman they have someone that has come through the system within the UK. The valuable experience he could lend could be crucial to helping the LTA turn the tide. With Draper coming to the end os his tenure, I have no doubt that the LTA will try to become more commercially sound in the way it distributes it's funds.

Local councils build courts which are just concrete with paint on them. No protection from the elements, so in time due to the low and non-existant upkeep will mean that the courts will wear away. With all the resource require for the upkeep of Grass and Clay, it would be a brave individual to invest in such courts expecting to see a ROI and also participation increase and given we have in and out of recession means that public are certainly counting the pennies. My local tennis club charges around £200 per year. For a family it is £340. Many will argue they don't have that type of money and the outlay is before you have to buy equipment and the travelling involved it becomes an expensive sport. Tennis unfortunately is a fair weather sport, unless you play indoors. The indoor tennis courts I know of are with local gyms and monthly membership can vary from £45-£80 per month depending on who you join.

It is crunch time for the LTA. I wonder if they have sent out a questionaire to local clubs to gain their input where they think they can increase participation. I hope they can turn it around, though I won't hold my breath.

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Post by bogbrush on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 8:46 am

They could have had an intelligent strategy for a couple of grand; I'd have been happy to pop down for an afternoon, issue the words "it's the grassroots, stupid", pocket my fee and leave them to it.

Until they declare a formal, absolute DISINTEREST in elite level achievement they will get nowhere. It's like a little sparkly thing dangling there that they all want to hold but it's irrelevant and misguided.
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Post by CaledonianCraig on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 9:10 am

My opinion on this is that the whole sport is priced out of the range of most. Take football - mass participation is simple and free and if you are good enough you will find your way into the sport and other sports are pretty much like that to a lesser degree.

Tennis though is different. Even if we consider a child starts hitting a tennis ball with a toy racquet then who spots him and nurtures the talent? Or if that boy/girl isn't spotted but wants to go to a tennis club/sports club to further themselves this is where the costs kick in and kill off their chances before they have even started as many can't afford such costs. I wonder how much talent has been missed in this way?

The LTA need to look at making places freely available throughout the country (at minimal costs or free) where kids can play tennis akin to sports clubs/tennis clubs. Once they have the kids there they can have assessors watching and coaching and if they see potential then try to nurture that talent into the next stage ie lessons and coaching (again at minimal costs or allow payments to be more affordable ie paid back over a space of time and even waive costs should the player make it to professional levels.

Now that idea may be seen as too fanciful and unachievable cost-wise but is it really? If you consider how much money the LTA rakes in from Wimbledon then they can make this happen but what do I know? I don't know a great deal on the subject so I may be spouting nonsense but I believe it is a system that could work.
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Post by barrystar on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 9:23 am

Tennis has several difficulties cost-wise:

a. as CC points out, its a very technical sport and any talent needs to be spotted and have a lot of time thrown at it

b. in terms of pure real estate it is very expensive - you need a lot of real estate to support two, at most four, participants, and the markings are specific, it's difficult to make do as you can with football

I agree with BB, the LTA is not the ELTA - it should concentrate on increasing competitive participation and measure its success on how many people play.  It is important at the elite level for its potential to get a bandwagon rolling - but kids who might think Murray is 'ace' will soon give up when they discover that there's nowhere to play.
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Post by JuliusHMarx on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 9:42 am

Every secondary school (probably) has a football team, cricket team, rugby team etc, but very few have a tennis team, or even play tennis. Even my kids' school, which is a specialist sports college, has a table tennis team, but doesn't do tennis.
There needs to be a scheme whereby local schools partner local tennis clubs, so the kids don't necessarily have to join the club to play. Schools could provide the rackets, balls etc. Again, my kids' school has a fully equipped gym, so I'm sure they could afford a dozen decent tennis rackets. 
If there is such a scheme already exists, it needs to be a whole lot better.

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Post by lydian on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 9:49 am

Geez, where do I even start with this...
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Post by lydian on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 10:00 am

Ok...I actually disagree with the grassroots sentiment.

We have plenty of kids coming into tennis - although don't get me wrong it could be a lot better.
However, the system is ill-prepared to cope with the number we already have. That's the problem.
Its like having a poor M1...the last thing we want to do is pour more cars onto it. The motorway needs fixing first.

The LTA is shockingly abysmal at moving kids through the mini-tennis system into yellow ball tennis.
So many kids drop out around 9-11...so many promising kids. They get filtered off to football, etc, instead.

Tennis is expensive to learn and takes a long time to become competent at. Don't forget this makes tennis more unique than other sports, you can't just pick up a racquet and play. Developing high performance kids takes 3-5 years to even get them to be a competent player...and this all costs money. The LTA pours too much money into the top end, not the development of the bottom end. It's those 8-12 year olds that need much more funding...otherwise parents just drop their kid out as its too expensive. Even if the kid is picked up by the LTA Talent ID system the money on offer is very small - maybe £400 a year. Given most elite type juniors play in indoor centres this money doesn't go far.

In France clubs, coaches, etc, are provided by councils...and we see the difference.
There is no point in pushing more kids into tennis until we are able to adequately cope with the ones we already have...and there are loads of 8/9/10 year olds playing at the moment to a high level. I see them up and down the country. The key problem is converting young talent into international juniors.

So, the LTA is abysmal at nurturing talent for loads of reasons...that's what the governing bodies need to fix.
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Post by bogbrush on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 7:16 pm

Sorry lydian, my point isn't that we should focus on grassroots in order to eventually create really good players.

I just think they should focus on grassroots so loads of people enjoy the sport........ and let everything else take are of itself because they've already done what matters.
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Post by Calder106 on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 7:41 pm

Posted this a few months ago but think it is valid in this thread.

"One I suppose sad observation though. I was down in England a couple of weeks ago visiiting my in-laws. In the public park there is a tennis court, in good condition and free to play. The weather was cold but dry. However I never saw anyone playing on it all the time I was there. There were people playing basketball (one on one) on the court next to the tennis court, football on the grass outside the tennis court, and the ubiquitous crown green bowlers (more my age group nowadays). The local school also has courts on which people can play for a couple of pounds per hour outside schools times. Although I did not visit these this time when I used to play on them with my son a few years back ( to a very low standard) we were nearly always the only ones there. So I suppose what I'm asking is that where these facilities are available at a reasonable cost (or free) why are people not using them. "

Overall I realise that number of tennis courts outside of clubs has decreased. They certainly have where I live. Being a bit nostalgic though I remember play over a rope between two close poles in the back yard (it was a big communal area) or over a fence between two houses. I don't seem to see that sort of thing nowadays. That's where I wonder if BB's grass roots vision of lots of people enjoying the sport could become reality even if courts and equipment were available and cheap.

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Post by time please on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 8:49 pm

The problem with children playing tennis is that it is difficult to just do on an impromptu basis because a court and a partner is needed.  While it's more fun to play football with a bunch of mates, my boys also spend ages practising ball skills in the garden, either together or on their own when friends aren't around.

When I was a child, we had a hitting wall at our local tennis club.  I used to cycle to the club on warm summer evenings even if I hadn't arranged to meet a friend, and I would hit happily back and forth, practising both forehand and backhand, for hours on end.  I also used to hit against the side wall at home, but I was really lucky that the wall, which only had a front door and a bathroom window, was right by our concrete drive which was adjacent to our extremely patient next door neighbours concrete drive.

I actually honed my skills (such as they were) with hours of solitary play when there was no-one else around.

Perhaps hitting walls could be incorporated into parks and clubs?

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Post by Born Slippy on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 11:10 pm

Calder and TP's comments are interesting. I used to play quite a bit of tennis or football in the cul de sac where my parents live when I was a kid. I never see any kids doing that now when Im back home. That sort of street play seems to have died.

I do find it ironic the LTA is now under pressure. After years of complete failure, we are basically in a golden time for British tennis. There have been 4 junior slam winners in the last 8 years and several other finalists and doubles winners. It was 1993 when we had a boys champ before that (and that was basically a bit of a fluke) and Im not sure when the previous one before that was - several years I think. The last girls champ was Annabel Croft I think.

Is this just a coincidence or are the LTA now starting to get things right?

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Post by bogbrush on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 11:20 pm

time please wrote:The problem with children playing tennis is that it is difficult to just do on an impromptu basis because a court and a partner is needed.  While it's more fun to play football with a bunch of mates, my boys also spend ages practising ball skills in the garden, either together or on their own when friends aren't around.

When I was a child, we had a hitting wall at our local tennis club.  I used to cycle to the club on warm summer evenings even if I hadn't arranged to meet a friend, and I would hit happily back and forth, practising both forehand and backhand, for hours on end.  I also used to hit against the side wall at home, but I was really lucky that the wall, which only had a front door and a bathroom window, was right by our concrete drive which was adjacent to our extremely patient next door neighbours concrete drive.

I actually honed my skills (such as they were) with hours of solitary play when there was no-one else around.

Perhaps hitting walls could be incorporated into parks and clubs?
Me too!

That wall was a spectacular opponent; he got everything back, and he also taught me to react quickly; as I played him no further away from the net he effectively volleyed brilliantly standing right up to the net.

Best practise possible. That, and serving to hit empty cans off the corners of service boxes.
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Post by The Special Juan on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 11:55 pm

time please wrote:The problem with children playing tennis is that it is difficult to just do on an impromptu basis because a court and a partner is needed.  While it's more fun to play football with a bunch of mates, my boys also spend ages practising ball skills in the garden, either together or on their own when friends aren't around.

When I was a child, we had a hitting wall at our local tennis club.  I used to cycle to the club on warm summer evenings even if I hadn't arranged to meet a friend, and I would hit happily back and forth, practising both forehand and backhand, for hours on end.  I also used to hit against the side wall at home, but I was really lucky that the wall, which only had a front door and a bathroom window, was right by our concrete drive which was adjacent to our extremely patient next door neighbours concrete drive.

I actually honed my skills (such as they were) with hours of solitary play when there was no-one else around.

Perhaps hitting walls could be incorporated into parks and clubs?

I think it was Marion Bartoli's dad who had her hitting balls against a wall for hours upon a time. I think it's a really good way to practice and only wish I had a wall I could hit off when I was younger (I literally cannot think of a single wall anywhere near where I live).
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Post by ryan86 on Tue 18 Jun 2013, 11:58 pm

I used to play football almost every night during the summer. Last 10 years, no one plays there. I never played a competitive match, but in these games during my teenage years (and usually 15-25 people), I often felt that I had a higher skill level through just playing on my own with the ball than those who were paying for training. I may be lazy and slightly overweight now, but I do agree with the lack of kids just playing with a ball nowadays being an issue, not just tennis I imagine.

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Post by lydian on Wed 19 Jun 2013, 10:32 am

Here's a good modern version of The Wall...

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Post by lydian on Wed 19 Jun 2013, 10:34 am

...even Juan Carlos Ferrero loves the Tri-Tennis wall

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Post by lydian on Wed 19 Jun 2013, 10:36 am

...and some US clubs even use them for junior drills

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Post by Turron on Wed 19 Jun 2013, 10:42 am

Seeing this thread reminds me I had long intended to take and post a couple of photos of a local park:

- first image, an all weather table tennis table
- zoom out, now obvious that the all weather table tennis is bolted into the service box of an all weather tennis court! Rolling Eyes

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