Greenhouse tennis participants share the court with Annabel Croft

Greenhouse Sports Greenhouse Sports
Greenhouse Sports participants from St Paul’s Way Trust School in Tower Hamlets were joined on court earlier this week by British Tennis legend and TV star Annabel Croft. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has identified East London as a priority area for funding from their £125 million initiative ‘Transforming British Tennis Together’, to create more facilities and allow tennis programmes to flourish year-round.
Croft joined our young people for a morning of coaching to celebrate the Greenhouse programme at St Paul’s Way and encourage communities to bid for the LTA’s initiative and help grow tennis participation across the country. The event took place just over the river from the bright lights of the O2 Arena where the very best tennis players in the world battled it out in the ATP Tour Finals.
Croft was ecstatic at the prospect of all-year round tennis for a new generation of players. When speaking about the tennis facilities at St Paul’s Way Croft said:
“We’ve got two really nice courts but at 4pm it’s going to be getting dark, so getting new floodlights would enable kids like we saw take their tennis sessions for longer throughout the year. I was someone who was able to play floodlit tennis every day after school and if I hadn’t been able to access floodlit facilities I would never have been able to improve my tennis the way that I did. So this is a good example of a facility that with a little extra funding would allow communities to play all year round.”

Since 2012, the Tennis Foundation has helped support the Greenhouse Sports programme at St Paul’s Way, which nurtures pupils’ Social, Thinking, Emotional and Physical (STEP) skills to equip them with skills for life. Minhaaj, a year 10 pupil on the programme, has seen his school-life transformed after joining in year 7 and has already represented the school in the National Schools League. He said:

“It’s been great to be part of this group. It’s given me an amazing opportunity and I really appreciate the chances I’ve had from being involved. The programme has helped with lots of stuff. I’ve been able to use the teamwork skills and the team exercises from playing tennis in school and classes.”

Through Transforming British Tennis Together, the LTA is aiming to work with communities to reduce the barriers to playing tennis by doubling the number of floodlit and covered courts across the UK over the next ten years, increasing available playing hours.

The students who are on Coach Chris’s tennis programme at St Paul’s Way have found tennis has helped them develop communication skills, build confidence to take on new challenges and improve both behaviour and attainment at school. A number of the students have become Tennis Ambassadors at the school and been given opportunities such as meeting tennis stars and being key members of the ball crew at the Wheelchair Tennis Masters. They have also excelled at the sport, with a number taking part in the LTA’s Road to Wimbledon competition as well as representing the school at the National Schools League and their borough of Tower Hamlets at the London Youth Games.

Christine Dransfield, Greenhouse Sports HeTennis Coach said: “The benefits to children partaking in our tennis programmes across health, physical and mental well-being and personal development, as well as academic attainment, are considerable and demonstrate the importance of creating opportunities to play. It is crucial we have the right facilities available so everyone can continue to play year-round and for some of our participants, more facilities will also mean more opportunities for further education and jobs.”

Shahla and Shakila, Year 10 twins on Christine’s programme, had never played tennis before joining the programme and are now tennis ambassadors for St Paul’s Way Trust School. English is their third language and the programme has helped them to develop communication skills. They have also found new confidence to take on new challenges – for example, last year they interviewed Novak Djokovic before Wimbledon last year. They also faced each other in the Road to Wimbledon KS3 Final in a battle of the sisters.

When talking about Greenhouse Sports Shahla said: “It has helped me meet new people and made me more confident. I’ve also learned never to give up but to also know that it doesn’t really matter if you lose.”

Following their coaching session, a group of Greenhouse participants followed former British No.1 Annabel Croft to the O2 to see their tennis heroes in action. Tickets for the Nitto ATP Finals were donated by the LTA, where Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and doubles partner Bruno Soares took on the legendary American twin team of Bob and Mike Bryan.