in2 Lifestyle: Local Tennis Leagues – Play time everyone

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EVER fancied being a Wimbledon Champion? Well we can’t promise you that but a new tennis initiative is giving you the chance to be the king of your local courts…

Local Tennis Leagues is the brainchild of Sally Kinnes and Nigel Billen and started in a London park a dozen years ago. Now, up and down the country, there are over 160 local leagues including Gravesend, Southend and Chelmsford.

“We call it friendly, competitive tennis” says Sally. “It is a chance to play mixed-sex singles against people of your own standard on your own local courts.”

The motivation for the project was simple enough: “I didn’t really know anyone to play and certainly not anyone of my lowly standard. So, on the advice of a local coach, I stuck a notice on the door of the tennis hut in my local park (Highbury Fields in north London) and invited others in the same position to get in touch).”

With the success of that first round – each round now attracts over 150 players – the leagues have expanded rapidly. Now players keep up to date with what is happening through the Local Tennis Leagues website, reporting scores and claiming prizes online – but in essence the concept remains the same.

The mixed-sex singles leagues are located in local, public facilities so no one has to travel too far to find their matches. Each league runs four or five eight-week rounds a year but you are never committed to playing in more than one. Players are put into groups of a similar standard – typically there are seven players in a group – and players arrange their matches for times that suit them taking charge of the scheduling and the booking of courts as necessary.

To help encourage the action, all players who complete three matches by the mid-point of a round receive a free tube of tennis balls and there are prizes for the group winner.

The LTA, the sport’s governing body in the UK has taken note too and are now officially championing the initiative. In fact, says Sally, it’s boom time for local park courts with the LTA and local authorities making a crucial investment in improving facilities like those in Chalkwell and Priory Parks in Southend.

So what’s stopping you? If you would like to get involved, visit the website at localtennisleagues.com and search out a league near you. And if your local park courts haven’t got a league yet, use the contact forms and see if Sally can set one up for you. “We are always looking for new venues and like-minded people who want to grow the grassroots of the sport – so it would be great to hear from you!”

How to get involved
• Visit localtennisleagues.com and navigate to the league closest to you.
• Currently Essex leagues include, Chelmsford, Romford, Gravesend and Redbridge
• For more info, email info@localtennisleagues.com

Key facts:
• Each round costs £18 to enter
• This is a chance to play one-on-one singles matches
• Players who complete three matches by the half-way point of the eight-week round receive a FREE tube of tennis balls
• Expect to play six or seven matches each round
• Leagues are mixed sex – you might play men or women but groups are organised into players of a similar standard
• Group winners receive tennis prizes to the value of £20 chosen from the online shop
• Players are automatically eligible for British Tennis membership (which includes access to an annual ballot for Wimbledon tickets)
• Results are posted online and the organisers are pro-active in encouraging matches to be played and offering assistance

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