26 April 2019

Will Britain's Fed Cup success get more women playing?

Getting more women to play tennis is a challenge for Local Tennis Leagues and the sport in general. Will the success of the GB Fed Cup Team help? Simon Wood talked to the crowd at last weekend’s tie against Kazakhstan at the Copper Box in London's Olympic Park 

WHY Local tennis leagues WANTS MORE WOMEN TO PLAY

Local Tennis Leagues champions everyday tennis. We take it seriously and we want as many people to share in it as possible. From the start, we made our singles leagues open to both men and women and encouraged them to play each other. It's a pioneering approach for singles but one that we know works. For park players, the battle of the sexes really can be a level playing field.

But men out-number women in our leagues and we would dearly like to change that. Our experimental women-only leagues are not about segregation, but simply a way to reduce all barriers to getting women into the game. Whether you want to play singles, doubles or women's only tennis, want to offer you the chance to play but we need more women to take part!

If you can, please help us spread the word.

If asked which countries you would associate with the world’s elite women’s team tennis nations, you’d probably reel off USA, Italy and Czech Republic who have dominated the Fed Cup (the World Cup of Tennis) in recent years. You probably wouldn’t think of Great Britain. In fact you would be right not to, as it has not competed in the top tier of women’s tennis since 1993, 26 years ago.
That all changed on Easter Weekend when Great Britain won the World Group 2 Play Off tie against Kazakhstan at the Copper Box in London's Olympic Park. Lead by Team Captain Anne Keothavong, Johanna Konta, Katie Boulter, Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and Katie Swan combined brilliantly as a team to lead Great Britain to the world’s elite once again. 

The British men won the Davis Cup in 2015, inspiring what the LTA called its “biggest ever initiative to drive junior participation”. But this time it was the turn of the GB women to provide the inspiration for adults to play, especially women and young girls. 

The venue chosen as an opportunity to bring professional tennis to east London for the first time, was the home of the 2012 London Olympics and the perfect place for fans to once again be inspired by elite athletes at the top of their game.

Chatting to people in the stands around me, a major reason that they had come was simply to see our women compete at the top level. Typical were a pair from Berkshire who said: “It's so much better watching them live rather than on TV, it gives you a completely different perspective – if only I had a serve like Katie Boulter!” And the acid test?  Yes, they were now considering getting back on court themselves.

There were also many families present. Prices (as they had been in Bath in the previous tie) were low enough to make it affordable and there were complimentary face painters to give kids (and adults!) a sense of patriotism and add to the atmosphere. Speaking to the Jones family from Bristol behind me, it was the daughters who wanted to come and had “dragged” their parents along. Both daughters played tennis but this was the first time they could see for themselves top female players in action. On offer is a flavour of what it takes to become an elite tennis player or sports person. “If you can’t see it first-hand then it’s hard to visualise what it takes,” the girls’ father told me.

Throughout the whole weekend, you could feel and see a real sense of optimism and enthusiasm everywhere you looked. This will hopefully provide a great platform to get more people especially women playing tennis in the UK at a time when there are increasingly more and more options for physical activity outside of traditional sports. Here's to more great female role models.

Simon Wood is an award-winning digital marketing expert based in London currently working as Global Digital Manager for Stars Group. A Local Tennis League player and long-time fan of the game, he's currently helping Local Tennis Leagues with its digital marketing strategy

Main pic: Great Britain's Katie Boulter celebrates winning a set during her second singles match against Zarina Diyas . (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA)