Brighton seafront was transformed into a mini Wimbledon on Monday (July 1) when schoolchildren from the city joined former British star Julie Hobbs as part of the Lawn Tennis Association's (LTA) drive to give more children the chance to try the sport.
Hobbs, who played in the women’s singles at SW19 nine times between 1994 and 2003 and is now a tennis coach in the city, helped give children from Balfour and Hertford Primary Schools their first taste of the sport as part of Tennis for Kids, the LTA’s biggest grassroots participation programme.
Aimed at giving four to 11 year-olds an introduction to the sport, the programme launched in 2016 runs in six weekly sessions, which focus on fun, getting children active, and helping them make new friends. Courses take place in Brighton and Hove and across Sussex all year round and the LTA are hoping to sign up its 100,000th participant by the end of 2019.
Hobbs was joined on the specially laid courts next to the city’s iconic British Airways i360 by a team of local LTA coaches and representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council. The event follows the recent Take Part Festival which saw thousands of children try free activity taster sessions across the city. The Tennis for Kids programme is run in partnership with local authorities to help encourage children to be more active and lead healthier lifestyles.
Hobbs, who coaches at Pavilion and Avenue Club in Hove, said: “I’ve played on Centre Court at Wimbledon and some of the most famous tennis venues in the world but nowhere quite as unique as this! To see these children get their first experience of tennis in such an incredible setting was great and hopefully they will want to try it again. It’s a great way for kids to get an introduction to tennis make friends at the same time.”
John Golding, head of LTA London and South East, said: “Tennis for Kids is a great way for children to get a first taste of tennis and where better for them give it a try then here on the beach in Brighton on the first day of Wimbledon.
"Tennis is a sport that should be open and accessible to children from a range of backgrounds and by working with Brighton and Hove City Council, other local authorities in Sussex along with clubs and venues across the region we’re able to do this and give children the chance to play and get active, in a fun and positive way.”
Councillor Alan Robbins, the council's lead member for tourism, said: “Schemes like this are crucial in helping to get more of our city’s children leading healthy and active lives. It’s important that they get the chance to try out a range of sports and activities and we’re working closely with our schools, the LTA and clubs across the city to give them those opportunities.
"Tennis for Kids is a great way for children who took part in the city’s recent TakePart festival to participate in a regular, fun physical activity during the summer and the rest of the year.”
Children who take part get their own kit with a special Tennis for Kids racket and ball set and a personalised t-shirt all for under £30.
To find out more about Tennis for Kids and sign-up to a local course visit: clubspark.lta.org.uk/tennisforkids