One of the difficulties that many children have with tennis is the loneliness of competition and for that reason many children are turned off competition. They may have been to one competition with their parents, not really known anyone else there and it has just became too intimidating for them. Another alternative is that they have played competition and have just found it too intense over time and want to take part in a group activity. This is were team tennis comes into its own as the children have the opportunity to play their individual sport but with their friends. In my experience it is the team tennis which can keep teenagers in the sport. After all how many adults play team tennis but would never dream of playing in an individual competition?
We obviously have the AEGON team tennis which is currently taking place all over the county. It is great that there is this structure of club leagues, county cup and schools tennis. Yet it is debatable how effective it is in supporting and encouraging girls to continue with tennis?
Here are 5 changes which could be made which would do this.
1) Insist all mini tennis team include at least one girl. If the team do not have a girl in the team they have points taken off their number of rubbers. For every additional girl in the team the team is given an bonus point.
2) In orange and green there must be a mixed doubles match.
3) At under 12s upwards, many clubs cannot raise a team of girls so why not have girls teams consisting of two players?
4) Teams could be a mixed team of 4 boys and 2 girls? The boys would then encourage girls to play to make up the team.
5) A second alternative at full ball would be in those counties where there are very few girls teams, encourage clubs to join together to form area teams. In more urban areas this may be based around cities or large towns. In rural areas, it may be a North, South, East and West teams.
Whatever systems is chosen we must look at ways of giving girls a route into team tennis rather than the structure closing it down due to numbers.
The image is from the LTA website