As part of the LTA sponsored program to not only get young people into tennis, but also keep their interest up in the game, Rye Tennis Club hosted a Red Ball Doubles competition last Sunday May 13.
We have reported on the previous events where teams of juniors (6 – 12 year olds) from different clubs have played a series of 10 minute games against each other. Each shot won counted as one point, with the team accumulating the most number of points winning the match. Despite some dreadful weather these matches were played with great enthusiasm and enjoyment by the youngsters.
On this occasion, although the basic format of 10 minute games remained the same, each game was played with a child and his or her parent as a partner. The parents had to use the same small-sized rackets as the children and the balls were the red ones commonly used for instruction and play with that age group. This not only gave the opportunities for families to play together – in many cases for the first time – but also provided the parents with a small reward for all the time they have spent delivering their offspring to, and collecting from the Tennis Club.
The one major change from the previous matches was the weather. For once, the sun shone and the perennial winds blowing across the Marsh had abated, giving an almost perfect day for the event.
In all, 42 children and parents were entered from the Green Tennis Club in St Leonards and Rye Tennis Club and in order to ensure every one had the opportunity to play the maximum number of matches, were divided into two groups, named Nadal and Murray.
The short-court games (played across the width of the court) were entered into with the children keen to show off their skills – gained under the expert tutelage of Frances Candy, head coach at Rye, and Claire Larkin, the Green coach – and it has to be said that there really was some real skill being demonstrated. The parents, too, joined in with great enthusiasm, although in some cases the competitiveness shown was not always matched by natural ability, but as at least one parent admitted to never having picked up a tennis racket before, that was perhaps not too surprising.
Regardless of this, and even though there was often competition within each pair as to who was to play the approaching ball, all the games were played with great good humour and the speed with which, after each ten minute session, the organisers were surrounded by young players wanting to know who to play next so they could get back on court, speaks volumes for the enjoyment that the afternoon provided.
After the last game had been played, a well-earned tea was provided on the lawn outside the Clubhouse while the coaches and their assistants totted up the scores. The maths being complete, the winners and runners-up were announced and presented with their medals. Another highly successful day for the juniors and clearly enjoyed by the parents, although doubtless more than a few of them would have been feeling tired and with aching muscles that evening.
Finally it is worth mentioning that tennis is not just a game for the young and fit. While both clubs playing on Sunday have a number of high-quality players, the game can be played at any level of ability and at any age, and there are many members who would testify to that. Both clubs cater for new players, players who have played but, perhaps, not picked up a racket for many years and players who are, well, just not very good. While there are plenty of inter-club matches for the experts, we will be reporting on competitions for this “rusty rackets” group later in the season.
Photos: John Minter