The nation’s best known “tennis mum” Judy Murray has said there is no reason why the sport can’t become popular in Shetland after delivering a free parents-and-children lesson in the isles.
The coach visited Sandveien Neighbourhood Centre, Lerwick, on Wednesday afternoon as part of her Tennis on the Road initiative which tries to encourage more children to pick up a racket.
“There’s no reason why you can’t develop a tennis community up here because you have got a great school [Clickimin games hall] and you’ve got a tennis court in town,” said Ms Murray, whose sons Andy and Jamie have won a combined total of eight grand slam titles.
Ms Murray’s decision to bring a spot of tennis to the isles came after she was invited to speak at the Wordplay book festival which launched last night.
Her lesson, jointly delivered with fellow coach Kris Soutar, was attended by around 15 children aged between five and 10.
Using miniature rackets and sponge balls (as well as hula hoops, balloons, and small bean bags), the coaches focused on routines designed to improve hand-eye coordination.
For example, one challenge was to bounce the ball on either side of the racket before hitting to a partner.
Another called for each parent and child to throw two balls between them.
The core message was that poor weather and the lack of proper tennis courts should not pose an obstacle to raising tennis-loving children.
Ms Murray said: “Mainly what we do with Tennis on the Road is that we go to places that are either rural or deprived. We’re taking tennis into places where they might not normally exist or it’s difficult to access and a huge part of our workforce build is parents – because parents will always be the first port of call when a child takes up an activity.”
She said it is important for parents to make games fun and “doable” for their children because “nowadays with kids if something’s too difficult for them they just go ‘I can’t do it’”.
Asked whether it was realistic for tennis to become a major sport in Shetland, she said: “I think it can… because tennis wasn’t exactly a major sport in Scotland 10 years ago and there’s a huge opportunity, I think, to capitalise on the excitement that tennis now has.
“I think the challenge up here of course is [letting] people know how to deliver activity and that’s really why we’re here.”
She added: “My point is it’s not always about having tennis courts or plush facilities – it’s actually about having people who can make activity happen.”
In Ms Murray’s eyes, all children should be introduced to sport because of the many benefits it brings – and we should not shy away from providing competitive environments for them to play in.
“Life is competitive. We have to introduce kids to competition,” she said.
“They have to be able to deal with victory and with defeat. They have to learn resilience and perseverance and self-esteem and so much of these life skills can actually come through playing sport so I’m a big believer in sport being a huge part in a child’s upbringing.”
Yesterday Ms Murray took her roadshow to the Anderson High School, before attending Wordplay in the evening. Her book Knowing The Score charts her struggle to ensure her sons were able to play tennis at the highest level.