I attended Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre for an energetic HEAD coaching master class hosted by Great Britain’s Fed Cup team captain Judy Murray. I was generously given a HEAD tennis outfit for the occasion, and having road-tested it during the four hour master class I found it to be feather-weight, super-comfy and perfect for getting me in the mood to play tennis. More on the outfit specifically later this week because for the first time ever I finally played tennis. An achievement worth celebrating!
Yep. You read correctly. Up until last week I'd never played tennis before. Tennis wasn't a sport on offer at my school in Blackburn, Lancashire growing up, so I never found the need or the urge to even attempt playing. I'm a massive spectator usually but on this occasion, I had all the tennis gear but no idea which wasn't a problem it turned out. Why? Because Judy Murray was hosting the class along side Living Tennis Academy, a specialist tennis coaching institution who manage and provide a range of tennis coaching at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre. Sorted!
As my luck would have it, the rest of the group were also shoddy tennis players :) That said they were still better than me. Aside from ball control and coordination, I learnt many things about myself during the master training session. One was that I'm more competitive than I thought (There was a game which involved us racing each other up and down the tennis courts whilst balancing a ball on our racquets. A bit like an egg and spoon race which in theory is light hearted fun. In reality, there were a few false starts on my part) Just saying.
Another thing I learnt is that I have completely forgotten how to catch a ball. I also found that I have got a short attention span. Actually...I've always known that.
So after learning how to catch again, winning all the races and regaining some focus, I sat down to have a quick fire interview with Judy Murray. Here's just a few of the things I asked her.
1. Why is it so important for you to get more females involved in tennis? Three and a half years ago I had the opportunity to become the Fed Cup captain and that made me realise just how hard you have to work to make things happen in women's sport in comparison to men's sport. We're seriously out numbered in terms of the number of coaches we have, not to mention the number of women in decision making positions within the sport. It's women who will make things happen for other women because we understand each other better in terms of our needs and wants. I've realised that for us to ever have a chance of winning the Fed Cup in years to come we need to be a much stronger tennis nation. That means more women playing, coaching and making decisions.
2. You are a talented coach with two highly successful tennis playing sons Jamie and Andy Murray. One would presume this is your time to have a well earned rest and take an early retirement! Why is it so important for you to encourage a new generation of children through the Grassroots programme? *She laughs* I might put my feet up in a couple of years but I've always loved my sport and I'm still very passionate about it. I also love teaching and I realise that for us to create another generation of players we need to have more good coaches at every level. I'm more than happy to share all the things that I've learned in the 25 or so years that I've been coaching.
3. Give me a brief beginners guide on how to start playing tennis. One of the really important things when starting out is to get the right equipment. Your racquet is always going to be the most important thing. The right length, the correct weight, the grip size, good strings, everything that suits your game style and your physical shape and size is really important. Being able to move to and from the ball is highly important too and *she chuckle* as you've found out today, you need to be able to throw and catch a bouncing ball before you can even think about hitting it. Start simple in a small space, learn how to control the ball then you can start to open it out. If you start immediately, in a big space, you're probably not going to hit too many shots.
4. Having been very entertaining on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, are you still dancing? *She laughs* Don't be so ridiculous. I'll stick to tennis.
Judy was certainly very lovely and there'll be more from her on my blog very soon. For now, I personally will be sharpening up my tennis skills in time for summer. See you at Wimbledon!