As this summer’s festival of sport draws to a close, it is time for the nation to stop sitting on the sofa and get out there and start playing.
Sadly, according to data provided by Sport England’s Active People Survey, the number of people playing tennis is declining in spite of it being the third most watched sport in the country after football and athletics.
Nigel Billen and his partner Sally are on course to reverse this trend with their revolutionary organisation, Local Tennis Leagues (LTL): ‘We always knew thousands of people wanted to play, especially when inspired by Wimbledon or the success of Andy Murray,’ says Sally Kinnes, co-founder of LTL. ‘The problem for many was knowing where to play and finding opponents of the same standard.’
Traditional tennis clubs often require a commitment that people are no longer willing to give – annual fees, volunteering to make the match teas and so on. But many players today want to be able to play on local courts at times that suit them without making that kind of commitment.
Nigel and Sally have come up with a brilliantly simple formula. They have basically created Tinder for tennis!
In order to join the league you go to the LTL website, choose a local court (usually in a park) and then fill out a detailed form about your tennis history. You then pay your £18 membership fee and, armed with your details, the LTL matches you with other players of a similar ability in your area and sends you their contact details. You are then ready to get in touch with each other, start playing matches and participate in a local league competition.
The LTL has been remarkably successful. Across Britain, there are nearly 200 leagues and last year over 8,000 people took part.
‘People want a simple structure that allows them to find and play good matches,’ says Sally. ‘Our players are carefully organised into groups of a similar level. They arrange their own matches at mutually convenient times over the eight-week period of a round and play locally on any convenient court. Matches are reported online and we keep in touch with everyone.’
Dr Charlie Foster of the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Science at the University of Bristol and one of the authors of the Oxford University report, said, ‘Tennis offers its players a perfect mix of heart and lung fitness, muscular strength with balance and co-ordination, alongside enjoyment and social benefits.’
Local Tennis Leagues are open to men and women of all standards over the age of 18. It costs £18 to enter a round, which runs for 8 weeks. To find out more, or to find a league near you, visit www.localtennisleagues.com