With the recent success of UK players like Andy Murray, who won his first ever Major in New York last month, and Heather Watson, who became the first British woman to win a WTA singles event since 1998, Great Britain’s interest in tennis continues to grow. But the country’s Lawn Tennis Association or LTA doesn’t want to wait another 76 years for another Grand Slam men’s champion to emerge hence the recent creation of its AllPlay initiative to encourage more people to take up the sport and increase overall participation.
AllPlay’s website allows anyone to sign up and create an online profile that includes their playing level and where they live. The site then will help connect the user with other local players listed on the site so that they can set up matches in their area. Users can then keep track of their matches and results helping them earn points on the site. Opportunities also exist to win prizes based on a person’s or local team’s participation.
Along with connecting players to each other, the site also provides information on several other programs that offer the health benefits of the sport including Cardio Tennis, a fitness program that incorporates tennis drills and exercises to music that helps improve cardiovascular ability similar to an aerobics class.
LTA Mini Tennis is the junior program for kids 10 and under. Designed to help children learn the sport using smaller racquets, softer balls and progressing from playing on half of a tennis court to a full-size court, the program is divided into three levels: red for beginners between the ages of five and eight years old with kids using a foam ball 75% slower than a regular tennis ball on a small court, orange for intermediate players between the ages of eight and nine that incorporates a slightly faster ball and hitting on a 18m x 6.5 m court, and green for 10-year olds who learn to hit on a regulation-sized court but without use of standard compressed tennis balls. The program offers kids the opportunity to play on teams and in competitions throughout the year where they can earn rewards for participation.
Disability tennis is a program to provide those with physical, visual or hearing challenges the opportunity to learn and play the sport. The LTA sponsors this program in conjunction with The Tennis Foundation.
In addition to helping people find others to play tennis with, the site provides resources and opportunities for volunteers, coaches and those working in tennis on the local level to promote their services as well as tips for increasing awareness about tennis within their communities.
Since the program began in May of 2011, AllPlay now boasts that over 100,000 kids play LTA Mini Tennis each week while over 10,000 plus adults have signed up to the website to find fellow players. Over 417,000 adults now participate in tennis on a weekly basis. The site itself has had close to 200,000 visitors and over 12,000 active users each week since its launch last year.
The timing of the creation of AllPlay couldn’t have been better with Great Britain suffering from declining participation rates in the sport. But the recent success from players like Murray, Watson, and rising star Laura Robson has spurred increased registrations according to Roger Draper, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association.
“When Andy Murray and Laura Robson won medals at London 2012, we saw thousands more tennis members signing on at clubs and many more people going to our All Play website to look for a court to play on,” Draper said in a recent interview with the Telegraph UK “Demand for a court doubled during the week of the Olympic tennis tournament. After so many thin years, 2012 has delivered in spades.
While encouraging more people to play tennis for fun and fitness is the main goal of AllPlay, it is hoped that young players who start out in the LTA Mini Tennis program will improve and soon participate in junior level tournaments sponsored by the LTA.
Tennis is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their age and with Great Britain now having a resurgence in both the men’s and women’s professional game, the surge in participation in the country should continue. AllPlay provides a perfect platform for anyone to find weekly partners in their community, gain the fitness benefits of the sport through such programs as Cardio Tennis and provide youngsters with a fun way to learn the sport through LTA Mini Tennis.
To learn more, visit http://www.lta.org.uk/allplaytennis/
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