Nature Valley Classic inspires local youngsters
Posted: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:48
There is far more to this week's Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham than the top class tennis on show from some of the world's best tennis players, with the event being used as a platform to engage the local community and inspire children from schools and clubs across the region.
Over 1,200 children from Birmingham primary schools will be taking part in tennis activities as part of the event, while a further 600 school children will be in the courtside crowds having been provided with heavily discounted tickets by event organisers, the Lawn Tennis Association.
In addition, 100 junior players from tennis clubs throughout Warwickshire are taking part in age group team competitions on courts adjacent to the tennis superstars, while some lucky youngsters will get the opportunity to conduct pre-match coin tosses on the Ann Jones Centre Court throughout the week.
The Schools Zone at the event sees local pupils, some of whom have not played tennis before, picking up a racket and having a go at different tennis activities, under the tutelage of Stuart Maidment, Community Coach at Edgbaston Priory Club.
After completing a busy first day of activity, Stuart said: "Giving kids a chance to play tennis, some of them for the first time is massively important. At an event like this where they can meet famous professional tennis players and have lots of fun, it can be a real spark for them to take up the sport and hopefully play for many years to come."
All 20 primary schools in attendance across the week are linked to eight Birmingham secondary schools that are part of the Tennis Foundation's transformational School of Tennis programme, with students from some of those schools that have done the Tennis Leaders Award supporting the delivery of the activities.
Pupils from Nansen Primary School in Alum Rock, Birmingham were among those who attended, with teacher Miss Norton saying "Today was really important for the pupils, there are not a lot of opportunities to play tennis in their area so it really opened their eyes as to what opportunities are out there for them. The experience of being able to take part in the tennis activities, and also watch some professional tennis players on court too was fantastic.
"The children have really enjoyed it. Back at Nansen we will continue to deliver more tennis opportunities to the children now they we have opened their eyes to what tennis is about."
The activity follows on from a schools roadshow run by Midlands LTA in the build up to the Nature Valley Classic that involved schools in Edgbaston, Handsworth, Gilbertstone and Sutton Coldfield and saw over 2,000 children participate in tennis.
Also part of the throng of crowds on site at the tournament this week were junior tennis players from eight clubs across the county, invited by Warwickshire LTA to compete in the Classic Club Challenge, a series of age group competitions held on courts right alongside some of the world's best players. A total of nearly 100 junior players covering U9's, U10's and U12's will take part in the annual competition across three days.
Organiser Alison Isaacs from Warwickshire LTA highlighted the impact of being able to involve local juniors as part of the Nature Valley Classic, saying: "This really is a great event for us because it enables local clubs to be part an international tournament, with the children competing here alongside some of the best women players in the world. They all think it's great because they can see those players close up and get autographs, as well as actually enjoy playing tennis themselves at the same time."
Parent Lucy Fogarty watched her daughter Jess play as part of the team from West Warwicks Tennis Club in Solihull, and said: "Bringing them to an event like this where they get to see top-flight sportswomen doing their thing, and be able to meet them and get their autographs, it really drives them and gives them an impetus to carry on with tennis. It really gives them the spirit of the sport.
"My eldest daughter has played in this competition in previous years too, and each year they just come away buzzing from it. I can honestly say it has been a key factor in keeping them playing tennis, and hopefully that will now continue throughout their life."
Scott Kirby, Junior Captain at Kenilworth Tennis Club said: "The event is wonderful, especially for the girls. It's a great opportunity for them to come and experience tennis, seeing ladies from the WTA tour who are role models, and I think that amazing opportunity is so very important".
On hand to present the children with their certificates was local star and current U18 National Champion, Lilly Mould, a member at Edgbaston Priory Club who is herself a previous participant in the annual competition. Lilly said: "I played in this event seven or eight years ago. I really think it's a great way to get players involved in the sport from a young age. It's fun, but it has a competitive side playing for your team as well which is great."
World class tennis at the Nature Valley Classic is on at Edgbaston Priory Club until Sunday. Limited tickets are still available. Fans can secure tickets now and read more about other British Tennis events at www.lta.org.uk/major-events.