ANDY Murray beware!
Britain’s top tennis star could soon have competition – from some keen youngsters from Huddersfield.
And their message: Tennis, it’s child’s play.
Children as young as two have been taking their first tentative steps towards becoming the next British Wimbledon champion under a new initiative being launched by a Huddersfield-based tennis coach.
Helen Myles, newly-appointed tennis coach at Longley Community Sports Club in Almondbury, is encouraging local youngsters to take up the sport.
Since taking over in March, Helen has already taught around 90 boys and girls, from 17-year-olds competing in county tournaments down to toddlers picking up a racquet for the first time.
Helen, a Yorkshire champion in her competitive playing days and former winner of the prestigious U16 All-England Nestle Championships, even has her smallest charges chasing round the court after soap bubbles to develop the speed of movement necessary to be a top tennis player.
She said: “I like to put the fun into fundamentals. All the time they are trying to catch bubbles they are learning how to run quickly and turn at the same time as developing hand-eye co-ordination.
“They also begin by rolling balls to each other – their first experience of serving and receiving.
“We had an open day and I overheard one of the parents muttering: ‘Why the silly games?’
“They are needed to develop the basics before moving up to developing proper tennis technique”.
That process happens quickly. Helen coaches youngsters of four and five who are capable of stringing together rallies of half-a-dozen shots and within a couple of years of that, advanced techniques are being mastered.
Helen said: “I was seven when I started playing but I am now coaching a girl that age who has already had individual coaching for two years.
“She puts top-spin on her forehands and even adjusts her grip properly to hit top-spin backhands – I was nearly 12 before I could do that”.
Club secretary Imogen Jones said the Open Day was aimed at showing adults just as much as children that a sport traditionally seen as elitist is really open to all.
“We have got three men’s teams and two ladies’ teams so we want more players for that – but we are just as keen on the social side of things,” she said.
“Our membership rates are really low compared with other clubs in the Huddersfield area and if you just want to play tennis, our facilities are as good as anybody’s.
“We are running fun club tournaments every couple of weeks and we are even going through the night in a couple of weeks for a 24-hour charity Tennis-athon.
“At the moment, we have got less than 100 adult members and the facilities could take double that.
“We need more members but we are also keen for people to come along on a pay and play basis.”
The Longley Community Sports Club is located in Almondbury and the wooded site boasts has six outdoor and one indoor tennis court and a Clubhouse. Four of the tennis courts are floodlit.