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ACE news for Youth Tennis, as growth hits record high, so let’s keep them playing!

According to a recent report from the LTA*, annual participation amongst 4-15 year olds increased by a staggering 418,000 during 2022. Making tennis one of very few sports to record higher participation numbers than pre-pandemic. The sport also saw 16-34 year-old figures jump 48% in a year - more than any other age category, which is great news for the sport.

But what lead to this impressive increase?

As well as improvements in technology, benefiting from online court and coach booking systems, the LTA also believe that the roll out of the LTA Youth programme, which trained over 10,0000 teachers to deliver tennis across, clubs, venues, and schools, has been a game-changer, as it brings a consistent look and feel for kids’ tennis.

The challenge now will be ensuring that these budding young tennis players retain their interest in the sport and keep playing tennis.

Back in 2012, the face of tennis for children 10 years and younger was officially changed following recommendations from a research group assembled by The International Tennis Federation (ITF). Major modifications in the sport were made via changes to tennis equipment and rules, to make the game more enjoyable, particularly for young people. This included low-compression balls, lighter and shorter racquets, smaller-size courts, lower net height, and modified game rules to replace traditional tennis around the globe.

These changes was rooted in the belief that scaling both courts and equipment would positively impact the learning experience, motivation, and participation of youth. In other words, use of this developmentally appropriate equipment was expected to increase participation amongst children, speed up the development of both technical and tactical tennis skills, and help retain children in the sport over the age of 10 more effectively.

This belief is one held by Dave Townsend, Tennis fanatic and founder of BallTrace, a devise that quickly and neatly personalises tennis balls, making them easily identified on court.

Dave comments: ‘As a father of 2, I know the importance of keeping your kids involved and motivated in a sport. We need to be doing all we can to keep our kids interested in the game and playing tennis right through to adulthood, and the sooner we nurture that passion for the sport, the more likely they are to stick with it.’

As the ITF research indicated, the right equipment does improve the overall experience and motivation for the young players. Allowing them to take ownership of their kit gives children responsibility and pride in their chosen sport.

BallTrace was developed to solve a problem, Dave’s daughter kept losing her tennis balls on court, or didn’t have the confidence to challenge adults who believed they were their balls, so he invented the BallTrace Devise to allow tennis players to professionally mark their kit.

Dave continued: ‘Once my daughter was able to personalise her tennis balls with fun and colourful emojis, she not only took pride in her own kit, but she was also able to quickly and confidently retrieve her tennis balls that had strayed onto other courts, free from any anxiety of being challenged over ownership. This meant the breaks in play were reduced and she had a more enjoyable experience overall.

Small steps such as personalised kit, along with big roll out changes like the LTA Youth Programme, are all key actions in engaging audiences and securing the future of success of Tennis as an inclusive and appealing sport.

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