Which comes first the players or the facilities?
Many places are crying out for good tennis facilities. Courts in which you can play tennis in all weathers, lights to brighten those dark evenings , it is not much but for many local authorities tennis courts are an unnecessary expense. I remember one time a sports centre manager proclaimed the gym is the most profitable part of any leisure centre. Who was I to argue? The cramped, dimly lit room surrounded by mirrors with a plethora of sweaty bodies swapping from exercise to exercise are the cash cows of the leisure industry. If gyms are the cash cows, tennis courts must be the problem children. You see how much space is required to have just one tennis court? In the same place you could fit 4 badminton courts each paying 5 or 6 pounds per hour. Or one game of indoor football could generate 45 pounds. What kind of tennis player would be prepared to fork out that type of money for a sportshall with multiple lines and dodgy bounces?
I have often heard the argument sure tennis isn’t a big sport in this area, why would we build a tennis court. Those on the other side of the argument would argue why would you want to play on such poor courts. In my own rain soaked town the sport of tennis is way down the list of priorities for the council. Successive leisure centre managers recite the same jargon time and time again to the tennis club who have struggled to exist against all odds. The club simply want decent facilities and by decent I mean a flat surface, with no puddles, muck or other debris, floodlights so the season can be extended past October and if we were lucky somewhere to use the toilet. Is that really too much to ask?
The answer has always been ‘no, no, no’ a little like that Amy Winehouse song. Nobody plays tennis here, this is a football city. If we were to build a facility it would be a white elephant. If we were to flip back the argument to the local authority there can be some kind or mutual agreement. Ofcourse no one plays tennis have you ever seen our facilities and yes there are a million football pitches, indoor, outdoor, grass gravel and 3G. What else is there to do apart from play football?
Build it and they will come?
Will this analogy apply in this instance? In many ways it will hold true if facilities exist then more people both young and old are likely to have a go at the game of tennis. If we consider the London Olympics 2012, Sport England stated that there was a huge uptake in sport following the Games. Up to 750,000 more people are doing sport and most of them women following the showpiece sporting spectacle. A tennis facility would have a similar ripple effect to the local area. People would become involved no doubt and new tennis courts would have a smaller but nonetheless significant impact.
Poor tennis facilities don’t do anyone any favours. Take a look at the States for example there are countless tennis courts on street corners, parks and in city centres free to use. The well documented case of Richard Williams is an interesting example of how freely available tennis courts can be used to open the sport up to people that otherwise would not have the opportunity. He learnt how to teach tennis and then subsequently taught his daughters Serena and Venus how to play the game and they ofcourse won grand slam titles. Tennis courts give everyone access to play the game. There is a place for country clubs with tennis courts but good courts must be freely accessible to all. Growing the sport of tennis without facilities is like trying to push water up a hill. Build good facilities and make the sport accessible to all for a healthier sport.