The Lawn Tennis Association re-launched the Mini Tennis programme in 2011 and saw over 100,000 children take part in 2012, including 10,000 children joining in with their summer events. With Mini Tennis week having taken place last month and Wimbledon in full swing, an online sports equipment retailer has undertaken research surrounding junior participation and parental opinion towards sports, with a particular focus on tennis.
The research, undertaken by Sweatband.com, polled 1,984 UK parents with children aged 16 or under as part of research into parental opinions towards sports.
The study initially asked respondents, ‘If you had to choose a sport for your child to become a professional in, what would you go for, based on the all round appeal of the sport?’ which revealed the following top 10 of most appealing sports for parents. Parents were allowed to select more than one answer if more than one sport appealed to them.
According to the results, the most desirable sports for children to become a ‘professional’ in, in parents’ eyes, are as follows:
1. Tennis – 38%
2. Athletics – 32%
3. Rugby (union or league) – 27%
4. Golf -21%
5. Swimming – 18%
6. Cricket – 17%
7. Football – 15%
8. Diving – 12%
9. Equestrian sports – 11%
10. Cycling – 9%
The respondents were then asked to specify what factors they had taken into account when choosing the most attractive sport for their child’s career. The preferred aspect was the ‘professionalism’ of the sport with 61% of parents saying that this was an important factor. ‘Good sportsmanship’ came next, with 55% saying that professionals displaying magnanimity to their opponent was a major draw. A ‘scandal free private life’ was also high on the list as 44% of parents worried about youngsters being led astray by their fame. Match fixing and performance enhancing drugs were also a source of concern, as 39% of parents were concerned that the sport needed to be seen as ‘clean’ in order to gain their career approval.
Just 18% of parents labelled a sport’s average ‘wage’ as a deciding factor when considering it as a career option for their child.
Those parents that selected tennis as their preferred choice were asked which of today’s stars were regarded as the most inspiring for children, which revealed the following top 5 based across both women and men’s tennis. They were allowed to select more than one option if more than one star impressed them.
1. Andy Murray – 44%
2. Novak Djokovic – 32%
3. Rafael Nadal – 29%
4. Serena Williams – 26%
5. Roger Federer – 25%
Andy Murray emerged top, as respondents cited his ‘professional image’ (54%), ‘dedication’ (46%) and ‘settled private life’ (33%) as reason for choosing him as an inspiring tennis star. A further 21% also mentioned that his ‘close relationship with family’ was an extra appealing factor.
The study then asked parents whether or not they felt that the conduct of sports stars influenced their children in any way, to which a resounding 72% said ‘yes’. The remaining 28% didn’t believe their children were influenced by their favourite athletes.
Respondents were then further asked whether or not they felt tennis players were good role models for their children. 57% said ‘yes’. 26% said that they were ‘unsure’ and only 17% believed that ‘no’ they weren’t. In contrast, when asked the same question relating to football, just 23% of the parents taking part felt that footballers were good role models to children.
The study finally looked at the costs of playing junior tennis for parents whose children already participated in the sport. Parents were asked to estimate how much, per year, they believed it cost them for their child to participate in playing tennis; with the average figure revealed ‘£179.62’ with all answers taken into account. According to the results, the average annual membership fee was ‘£61.41’ and equipment (including a racket) revealed an average cost of ‘£118.21.’ These costs didn’t include travel or extra tuition fees.
Contrasted with parents whose children played football, tennis came in at a lower cost; as the study revealed that football parents estimated that they spent £78.50 on annual playing fees (match day subs and training costs) but £122.31 with money spent on equipment (including boots and replica shirts), producing a total average cost of ‘£200.81’. This didn’t take into account the costs of travel for away fixtures.
Maz Darvish, CEO of Sweatband.com, had the following comment:
“Tennis appreciation amongst British youth is growing according to the LTA’s figures surrounding Mini Tennis. As big tennis fans, this is something close to our heart. The participation of future generations is the heart beat of the game so of the utmost importance. Some sports suffer from public perception. The image of cash rich footballers swaggering all over the tabloids is something unlikely to impressive concerned parents. Tennis has a much more wholesome image, which, as evidenced by our poll, improves its all round appeal.”
“Interestingly, whilst tennis has long been regarded as something of an elitist sport, the costs of encouraging junior participation, when compared with football, emerges favourably in terms of annual fees. It’s not as costly as parents might think, which should help to further encourage the growth of the game. Tennis clubs shouldn’t be seen as the preserve of the well off.”