School link key to future of tennis in Inverness
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Having a presence in schools is key to the future of Inverness Tennis and Squash Club, according to Jane Bradley.
Bradley was recently nominated for Tennis Scotland’s lifetime achievement award after spending 10 years volunteering in Inverness, having previously been involved in Manchester and Liverpool, where she worked as a PE teacher.
So she knows just how important it is to get a foothold early to attract people to the sport.
“We work with our local primary schools – Central School and St Joseph’s,” Bradley explained.
“We have children come in once a week from those schools for an after-school club.
“Then Jana Brady, our coach, she went into Inverness Royal Academy and ran some sessions and we also went into Culloden Academy.
“That establishes our relationship for them to move on to the club if they like what they’re doing in school. Hopefully they will make that link and then come along.
“We get quite a lot of children coming along to the camps we do in the school holidays, and often if they have never been before and they come to the camps then they will stay on afterwards.”
There has been a renewed interest in tennis over the last decade because of the success of the Murray brothers, and Bradley thinks they have inspired a new generation to pick up a racket.
“Because of Andy Murray, tennis gets more publicity in the media,” she reasoned.
“So with Andy and Jamie Murray it’s on television and radio more, with all their achievements.
“I think more children then want to play, they have somebody to identify with, whereas in the past it has been a lot of football.”
However, facilities and access are always an issue.
From Bradley’s experience Scotland is a long way behind the curve compared to English schools.
“When I worked in England, tennis was quite set up in the schools, which made quite a big difference,” Bradley added.
“Children had very often done it in primary school, and most of the schools have tennis courts as well.
“At schools in Scotland we don’t have ready-made tennis courts, and we do a lot of athletics in the summer. The summer term is so short, they have to give justice to one activity rather than doing different activities.”