Empowering Girls In Tennis

Date: 22 February 2024   Author: Energise Me

From a Level 3 coaching qualification to a successful initiative for girls in tennis, Isla has spent the last 3 years developing her skills as a coach to empower girls in the sport.

Evolving Skills

In my first blog a few years ago, I was in the process of doing my Level 2 qualification. Since then, I’ve completed my Level 3 so I’ve gained a lot more experience. Where I’ve been an assistant up until now, this qualification will allow me to do private lessons and run sessions by myself. If I wanted to become a head coach at a venue, then I’m more likely to be chosen because I’m more qualified.

It was a really tough journey; it took 6 months to complete. But I’m so proud of myself for doing it. It was a lot more in-depth, and I’d struggled with the Level 2 as I hate assessments. But persevering, just helped me grow more as a coach. I was like, ‘you know what, I know what I’m doing, I can do this.’

There weren’t people like me when I started tennis

LTA Youth Girls Programme

Before, I was really keen on getting girls involved but now I have a better picture of how I can do that.

While I was at a coaching day in Portsmouth, they mentioned a new programme called the LTA Youth Girls and they asked if people wanted to apply. With a nudge from a friend, I submitted the form, did a video and got chosen! I was one of the youngest people doing it. For this programme, I had to lead sessions for girls who either had never played before or had played and then stopped. I had to get the flyers out and I was posting on social media – I’d never really done anything on the business side so this was such a great learning experience.

I did 3 sessions a week for 4-8 year olds over the Summer. The aim was to get 20 girls and I got 21 which was perfect! When that ended, I had 18 girls sign up for a six-week follow up course.

Currently, I’m in the process of creating a girls’ group and making it permanent. There’s a couple of things happening with venues at the moment, but when that settles, I can properly look into it.

Isla holding her Level 3 coaching qualification.

Building My Confidence

When I was younger, I was worried about people judging me. Now, coaching is where I feel at home. I’ve still got a long way to go, but getting my Level 3 has given me so much more knowledge to fall back on. When you coach, you have to be by yourself. You have to learn to step into the expectations of the role and rely on yourself. Don’t get me wrong, even now I can be unsure on the best way to go about things. So, I’ll just go and speak to someone instead of guessing which I wouldn’t have done before.

I think my first hope for the future is to keep growing tennis in schools.

Why Coaching?

There weren’t people like me when I started tennis; between the ages of 4 and 13, all the higher-level coaches were male. I want young girls to have someone they can identify with. A lot of my friends don’t play tennis anymore, and I want to help change that and keep girls in the sport. There are so many avenues to explore, I want to help guide young people down the route that suits them.

I love watching my players develop. One girl, when she first started, was clinging to her parents and wouldn’t say a word. I’ve been working with her for a year and her confidence has grown so much! I’ve realised how important it is to have a bond with the child. You get to understand how they work individually. Some kids will progress slower and that’s OK and you have to make sure they know that’s OK as well.

The Future

My two year goal: I’m working at a private school at the moment, coaching. I have a mentor there who helps me with the lessons, so I think my first hope for the future is to keep growing tennis in schools. I’d love to encourage the younger ones to become county players.

I think a big goal for me would possibly be becoming the head of girls’ tennis at a club. Trying to get as many girls through the door as possible. Boys often have quite big personalities and I’ve watched girls shy away when that happens. Providing a safe space where girls can be themselves and enjoy being active would be amazing.

Isla coaching.

Tips for Trying A New Activity

Just give it a go. If you don’t like it, it’s not the end of the world. There are so many activities and sports out there for you to try. Maybe, go to a free session first so you don’t feel like you’re losing money if you don’t like it. You could always try an individual’s class first to familiarise yourself with the movement, then it might not be so scary in front of other people.

Tips for Other Coaches

Get as much experience as you can. Don’t stick to one working environment. I was coaching at a Summer camp in Oxford and kids were coming across from abroad. That was very different for me, but I learnt so much working with a diverse range of people. Getting new experiences and working with different communities will also help you find out what you actually want to do and what sort of coach you want to be.

16-year-old coach rallies the girls

Isla fell in love with Tennis at 5, she now wants to be a coach.

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