Tennis is often seen as a mainly middle or upper class sport. Yet last year, over 11 million of us Brits watched the Wimbledon championships on TV. But according to the Lawn Tennis Association, just 2% of us play tennis on a regular basis. Why is it that so many fewer people play tennis that watch it ? The major factor is accessibility. Tennis clubs in Britain tend not to be located in the inner cities. Tennis courts are so often accessible only to those who live in exclusive areas, who belong to private tennis clubs, and who can afford coaching for themselves and their children. This is a pity, because tennis is not just an enjoyable game, it also provides measurable health benefits. A recent review of 25 articles which appeared in respected medical journals, found that “A positive association has been shown between regular tennis participation and positive health benefits, including improved aerobic fitness, a leaner body, a more favourable lipid profile, improved bone health, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.” We owe it to the less privileged members of our society to provide them with the same opportunities for living a healthy lifestyle as are provided to our more affluent citizens.
South Headingley has many residents whose family origins are in the Indian subcontinent. This group is particularly susceptible to metabolic syndrome, a condition known to improve with exercise. And yet in all of Headingley ward, there are just two tennis courts, at St Chad’s. Using figures for participation in tennis provided by Sport England and the Lawn Tennis Association, there is a need for an additional seven or eight tennis courts in Headingley ward, and a need for one additional court in Hyde Park and Woodhouse.
We urge INWAC to do all it can to preserve the remaining tennis courts in Headingley and Hyde Park and Woodhouse, and to bring the level of provision up to the standard of the Lawn Tennis Association. And given that we now have a shortage of courts, we plead for no further conversion of courts to MUGAs as happened recently on Woodhouse Moor where we lost six courts to a MUGA, without consultation with local residents. We also ask INWAC to use every opportunity that presents itself to create a site within Headingley for a tennis club, so that everyone who lives in our area can enjoy the benefits of tennis already enjoyed by people who live in better off areas. Funding to do this is available from the Lawn Tennis Association as part of its strategy to create “beacon sites” across the country, and we would urge the council to liaise with the LTA in order to identify such a site in our area.
Finally I have here more than 160 names collected in less than two weeks from people who would like to see the formation of the Headingley Tennis Club, whose aim is to obtain the six tennis courts in front of the Leeds Girls High Main School Building and Rose Court for the use of the people of Headingley. These courts could be used by schools during the day and by residents in the evening and at weekends. Along with the Chestnut Avenue hockey pitch, it could become the first of the Community Sports Clubs proposed by Parks and Countryside in the Executive Summary of the city’s Playing Pitch Strategy which aims to create sports clubs across the city easily accessible to everyone. We urge councillors to join with us in this exciting endeavour. With your help, we can transform Headingley Tennis Club from a campaign group to a working tennis club. By helping us to secure these tennis courts, you will also be helping to secure the health and enjoyment of both current and future generations of local people, something we and they will thank you for.