Free family tennis sessions at Maidenbower Park

Left to right, Lead coach Gareth Balch Coach support coach Justin Garner and volunteer Dan Cobley.
Left to right, Lead coach Gareth Balch Coach support coach Justin Garner and volunteer Dan Cobley.

National charity Tennis For Free is investing in free tennis sessions for a year as part of a collaboration with Crawley Borough Council and the Lawn Tennis Association.

The coach-led sessions are one of several similar schemes in the south east, and will be every Sunday, starting this weekend, from 9.30am to 11am.

All equipment is provided free of charge, and people of all abilities are welcome.

Gareth Balch, organiser of the scheme, said: "I am very excited to welcome Tennis For Free to Crawley.

"The Maidenbower Tennis For Free scheme is a fantastic opportunity for the local community to try tennis for either the first time, or to dust off the cobwebs after a time away from the sport.

"It’s a fun, friendly and entertaining free weekly event where you’ll make new friends and benefit from regular exercise.

"There is no catch, as the name suggests, everything is free.”

Tennis For Free has plans to bring more than 175,000 new tennis players into the sport over the next five years, and works to bring the game to hard to reach communities and to benefit those with limited access to sport.

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Paul Jessop, CEO of Tennis For Free, said: “We are changing the image of tennis to a sport for all by removing the cost barrier so that members of all communities can play and benefit physically, mentally and socially.

"Maidenbower Park is one of hundreds of schemes we are opening across the UK over the next five years as part of our plan to get more people playing this wonderful sport.

"We have created specially designed programmes to welcome families, the old and the young, of any ability and the beauty is that each session is led by qualified tennis coaches who will ensure people develop at their own pace.

“But it’s not just about the playing. We have seen at our other schemes that small friendly community groups grow.

"This social cohesion is great to see especially for those who may not think tennis is for them but is for another member of their family.

"People can still stay involved and help run the schemes.

"We are always looking for local volunteers to grow the game, indeed some of our most successful and sustainable schemes across the UK have the coaches supported by a team of volunteers who organise further events which all contributes towards everyone’s wellbeing.”

Tennis For Free currently fund around 200 professional tennis coaches, supported by volunteers, to offer weekly sessions to more than 100 sites.

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Luke Digweed from the LTA said: “We are very excited about the free activities being created for people to play tennis in Crawley through the Tennis for Free programme, and Maidenbower Park is a really accessible park in the heart of the community.

"Having good local easy to access park facilities where you can play informally with your family and friends is really important to encourage people to play.

"But Tennis For Free is also about the ability to meet new people and develop friendships, taking regular exercise and simply having fun. It isn’t about finding the next Andy Murray, but about making tennis accessible to all.”

The charity want to bring more people, especially from disadvantaged communities, into physical activity and reinvigorate under-used local parks through this scheme.

Councillor Chris Mullins, cabinet member for Wellbeing at Crawley Borough Council, said: “Whether you've never picked up a racket or are a seasoned regular, come along to Maidenbower Park on Sunday mornings for the Tennis for Free sessions.

"Qualified coaches, equipment provided – and all for free. These sessions will benefit those with limited access to sport, enhance physical and mental wellbeing and re-energise people of all ages.”

Sign up for Tennis For Free at Maidenbower Park at www.tennisforfree.com. You can also follow Tennis For Free on Twitter and Facebook @tennisforfree.