Tennis royalty was in town on Wednesday as former British number one Tim Henman visited Ackworth School to celebrate a successful local project aimed at getting more young people involved in tennis and launch his Foundation’s new fundraising campaign.
The participation project, jointly funded by the Tim Henman Foundation and Ackworth School, in partnership with the LTA, the national governing body for tennis in Great Britain, has helped local coach Alice Robson bring tennis to nearly 2,000 pupils at 28 local primary schools, as well as to generate nearly 200 new members to Ackworth Tennis Club.
During the visit, Alice, who was named Development Coach of the Year at last year’s LTA Tennis Awards, delivered coaching alongside the visiting primary school teachers to nearly 100 children at the school together with Henman himself, who was on hand to share his experiences from a 15-year playing career which saw him reach six Grand Slam semi-finals and win 15 ATP career titles.
Finding Your Spark
The event also marked the launch of a new campaign by the Tim Henman Foundation – the #FindingYourSpark campaign – which is designed to help some of the country’s most vulnerable young people pursue their passions in disciplines like tennis. Events like today’s are all about spreading special experiences like accessing one-to-one coaching and giving more children the chance to find their spark.
Tim Henman said: “I am delighted to be at Ackworth today and see more young tennis stars coming through the pipeline. Talent is spread evenly across the country but sadly opportunity is not, which is why this Foundation initiative in association with the LTA, Ackworth School and Ackworth Tennis Club is so important.”
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, children need these chances more desperately than ever.
“Some of us are lucky enough to remember the moment we found our spark and the people who inspired us, in my case through the tennis scholarship I was granted aged nine. By donating to the #FindingYourSpark you can give more special, life-defining moments to more of our most vulnerable children.”
Celebrating tennis across Yorkshire
Paul Bennett, LTA Head of Region for North of England said: “The results of this partnership speak for themselves and it’s great to see so many of the schoolchildren that Alice has inspired to pick up a racket enjoying today’s session with Tim. We are continuing to work closely with the Foundation as we both work towards encouraging more and more young people from all backgrounds to get involved in our sport. There are plans in place to follow a similar model to this project in other areas of the country, and hopefully, we will see similar levels of success.”
Alice Robson, Ackworth Tennis Club Head Coach and LTA Development Coach of the Year, said: “It has been a privilege to give so many children around Yorkshire the opportunity to play tennis for the first time. Seeing them pick up a racket and learn new skills is wonderful. Ensuring they have a positive first experience with tennis is important when trying to engage them with the sport and inspiring Britain’s tennis players.”
Anton Maree, Head of Ackworth School said: “Introducing activities to children to which they do not normally have access has to take place at their convenience. We work with our partner schools at their schools with the facilities they have at their disposal. This approach allows us to reach a significant number of children and we help them to find their spark!”
Richard Garrett, CEO of the Tim Henman Foundation said: “The Tim Henman Foundation Community Tennis Programme in Ackworth is a leading model for developing tennis participation. The programme involves schools and a club with outstanding levels of participation creating 1000s of “one life one opportunity” moments for young people to pick up a tennis racquet and potentially find their spark. The scheme’s success reflects a one education sector approach with children and teachers from both state and independent schools being inspired through tennis”.
The Tim Henman Foundation is one of a number of charities the LTA is supporting through the effects of the coronavirus pandemic through grant funding from the Tennis Foundation.