The Sporting Story of...Local Tennis Leagues Ltd.
What is your sporting story?
Local Tennis Leagues Ltd was originally founded by Sally Kinnes and Nigel Billen. Both with a background in journalism, they set up the first, fledgling league on Highbury Fields, London in May 2005. It took off. Since then, many hundreds of people have taken part, made friends and improved their game.
Now in its sixteenth year and a regular feature of Highbury Fields’ life, the Highbury Fields League led to dozens of others all over the UK. As of today, there are nearly 200 leagues nationwide and over 5,000 matches played this year alone!
Although there are plenty of leagues and competitions in clubs if you seek them out, there is not always a regular league for players who play on one set or a few neighbouring sets of local public tennis courts. Having one, we have discovered, helps build a sense of community, puts local players in touch with each other, and gives people a way of seeing themselves improve.
Our aim is to launch more leagues wherever there is a need, concentrating on public tennis courts where finding opponents can be difficult. In the spring of 2020 Local Tennis Leagues Ltd was purchased by the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) and as part of the new team, we now look forward to bringing the leagues to a wider audience and continue to grow participation in tennis.
Is there an object or collection of objects you can share to illustrate your sporting story?
We are new to this project and so don’t necessarily have a collection of objects to share right now! However, Nigel and Sally before they passed the reigns over to us, commissioned this print (see above) from artist, Paul Cox, which players are now able to purchase. It sums up their time with Local Tennis Leagues and their vision of Parks Tennis going forward.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your sport and how are you now bouncing back?
Covid-19 had a huge impact on tennis. When lockdown was first implemented, we had to cancel all our leagues which meant a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure everyone was compensated and informed of the latest updates. We then had to simply wait for the tide to pass and hope we can get everyone back in place to play as soon as we could. We know how important it is for people to be active, and the particular role tennis can have in the physical and mental wellbeing of those that play it. By its very nature, tennis is an activity whereby close person to person contact can be avoided, with the UK Government saying tennis is a good example of an activity that can be undertaken in a way compliant with social distancing restrictions. It has been a bumpy start reopening leagues and getting players back on court but we actually feel now that it has had a indirectly positive impact on the sport as demand is higher than ever to play tennis.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Local Tennis Leagues, having now joined up with the LTA, will be going forward to become bigger and better, bringing more innovative plans to the fold. Our aim is always to provide fun, friendly and competitive matches to a whole range of players and we want you to know that everyone and anyone is welcome to play! If you see a league near you then don’t hesitate to join, you won’t regret it!