Liverpool is becoming the UK’s Tennis for Free success story with more people than ever picking up a racket and taking part in free sessions.
Last month, 320 people took part in Sefton Park’s Tennis For Free sessions – a programme which gives the community free access to tennis courts and a coach-led session, with the aim of getting beginners to the sport fit, healthy and active.
And Sefton Park proved to be a pull to people from all over the world, with participants taking place who are originally from Korea, Canada, Chile and Nigeria.
Sefton Park took the national top spot ahead of 20 other Tennis for Free sites and now has over 400 registered players.
Tennis for Free Liverpool is a partnership between the national Tennis for Free charity ,Mersey Bowmen Tennis Club (who are based in the park), Liverpool Tennis Foundation and Liverpool City Council.
Operating on nine courts the sessions every Sunday morning have been attracting over 80 weekly participants led by Head Coach David Simms, who supervises the adult groups, Assistant Coach Stephanie Anderson, who works with the juniors and a team of volunteers from the club headed by Danny Woodworth and Sue Critchley.
As well as generating a significant membership boost to Mersey Bowmen, the sessions have helped established LTA promoted Tennis Tuesdays and Advantage Tennis Training midweek sessions taking place in Sefton Park. Next month a similar free tennis initiative launches in Princes Park on Saturday mornings and is aimed at anyone who wants to give tennis a try regardless of ability, age or whether you’ve played before.
David Simms said ‘The response to the Tennis for Free programme has been unbelievable. We have an amazing time delivering the sessions each week and there is both a tremendous cultural diversity and group dynamic amongst the players. Both Mersey Bowmen and Tennis for Free have shown fantastic support and we have a great team of coaches and helpers. Liverpool City Council have been terrifically supportive not least in providing use of 3 additional newly resurfaced courts and promoting wider provision. Onwards and upwards!’
Allison Lewis, the LTA’s Regional Participation Manager added: ‘It’s great to see Liverpool placed as a key area in our national LTA campaign to increase participation’.
Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member responsible for sport, Councillor Wendy, said: “Securing the number one slot puts our city at the forefront of parks tennis in the UK. We are committed to providing community based opportunities for tennis in our city parks and they are open to all beginners – old and young.”
The programme is delivered as part of Liverpool’s Physical Activity and Sport Strategy 2014-21 which sets out the vision for Liverpool to be the most active city in England by 2021. The Strategy is a key part of Healthy Liverpool – a five-year programme to improve health locally. Helping people reap the benefits of moving more is central to Healthy Liverpool.
How to get involved this summer:
Free mass participation sessions for all ages and standards
Sefton Park Sundays 10am-12noon
Princes Park Saturdays 9.30am-11,30am (from July 16th)
Community Tennis Evening
Palmerston Tennis Club, Allerton Wednesday 7pm-9pm