Sport NI have teamed up with Ulster Tennis and the UK charity Tennis For Free to offer each of the district councils across Northern Ireland the opportunity to get involved with an initiative aiming to make tennis accessible for everyone. The emphasis is on creating an inclusive, exciting atmosphere which will enhance community engagement in tennis. Through linking with a local tennis club and park based courts, Tennis For Free hopes to see as many participants as possible playing regular tennis.
Sport NI first facilitated a visit from Paul Jessop from Tennis For Free back in October 2017 where representatives from Ulster Tennis and the NI district councils were provided with a taster session on what Tennis For Free entails. The concept of Tennis For Free offers weekly tennis sessions without the cost barrier of equipment which can prevent people from joining in at their local tennis club. Tennis For Free provides support to councils and clubs who can offer a venue to all participants, regardless of age, ability or income.
The Tennis for Free Lite model is a one hour ‘super charged’ tennis session which is delivered on two courts for anyone from aged 8 upwards. This type of session is designed to drive tennis interest in the new TFF facilities, with participants split into two groups – a beginners section and an improvers group. This framework allows the players to engage in a variety of different drills and games, during which they can improve their racquet skills.
There has been significant work behind the scenes to get Tennis For Free sessions established in Northern Ireland, and Thursday 13th September saw the launch of our second site in partnership with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council at the Bawnacre Centre in Irvinestown. This follows a successful launch of Tennis For Free in the Newry, Mourne & Down District Council area at Milltown Tennis Courts, Warrenpoint which saw 300 people registered prior to the launch, with 60 participants taking part in the first week and an average of 40 participants now attending each week.
Tennis For Free contributes significantly to Sport NI’s work towards increasing the number of people in Northern Ireland who are adopting and, crucially, sustaining a sporting lifestyle. Tennis for Free is a great way to help achieve these outcomes, improving the fitness levels of the participants and encouraging positive relationships amongst the community.
Sport Northern Ireland Chair, George Lucas said “As an avid tennis player myself, I’m delighted to see the launch of the Tennis for Free initiative that will be giving everyone an opportunity to participate in the sport. There has been much work happening in the background of this initiative and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has been involved with bringing it to life. Money can be scarce, so with this great free programme, it will encourage people of all ages and abilities to get involved in the sport, make new friends and maybe in years to come, we will see someone from the programme competing at Wimbledon!”
Sport NI looks forward to supporting the development of further opportunities for Tennis for Free across Northern Ireland. For more information on Tennis for Free go to: www.tennisforfree.com