As the father of a son and a daughter I am acutely aware of the different challenges facing boys and girls in tennis. Before my daughter started playing tennis,I must admit I did not give it much thought. Instead in blissful ignorance, i thought tennis was a great game as it was something that both boys and girls played and it would be ideal for me as both children could play the sport.
As a Headteacher I used the formation of the WTA as a school assembly and even used the theme when I had been asked to present a whole school assembly as part of a Headteacher selection process in a different school. I thought the story of Billie Jean King was inspiring as was today’s outcome that the men’s and women’s Wimbledon champions receive equal prize money.
Yet as my daughter competes in Orange tournaments I am noticing the small number of girls that are playing the game, which reduces further in each age category and in turn the small number of women who are paid coaches at tennis clubs, (fortunately my daughter does have the opportunity to work with one).
The campaign, ‘this girl can’ has had a considerable impact in raising the issues of women in sport and on Saturday women will finally compete in the Boat Race alongside their male counter parts. As a Headteacher I was very supportive of the female PE teachers in my school who reached out especially to girls in year 10 and year 11 to provide sporting opportunities which they enjoyed in core PE lessons rather than seek to avoid.
There is no doubt that governing bodies must act to ensure that their sport is girl friendly. In the case of tennis it is the LTA. In the following blogs I’d like to consider some actions which could be taken to make competitions, AEGON team tennis and rankings more encouraging towards girls to keep them in the sport. So that these girls can and continue to do so.
However I am also interested in what do you do to encourage your daughter’s tennis?
Do you look for a female coach as a role model? Does she attend a girl’s tennis squad? Do you encourage her to hit with other girls? Do you look for a girl’s tournament in mini tennis? Do you not enter mixed tournaments or mixed matchplay?
We all know that many girls drop out of sport and we will have our own way of trying to ensure that our daughter’s don’t do that. I wonder what idea you have?
Blog 2 in this series looks at how competition organisers can encourage girls to compete more: Girls in tennis competitions
Blog 3 in the series considers how we can make team tennis more attractive to girls: Girls in team tennis
I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents is written and I’m now looking for a publisher. Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.