Media Release: Mel South goes back to school

TEAM AEGON player, Mel South, took time out from playing at the AEGON Classic and joined pupils at Raddlebarn Primary School in Birmingham to check out the changes in tennis which are taking the nation’s youngsters by storm.

The Tennis Foundation (TF), supported by the Lawn Tennis Association, (LTA) has been implementing a new AEGON Schools Tennis strategy to increase children’s access to tennis and the British number five was on hand to see the new style tennis delivery in action.

Team AEGON is the elite British squad that receive funding and support from the LTA and today, Mel experienced first hand just what an impact the initiative is having in Birmingham.

She said: “To encourage more kids to take up the sport and stay involved, we want to make tennis more accessible at school and we want them to have a quality experience of this great sport, and the session I saw today was exactly that.”

AEGON Schools Tennis provides a range of resources for schools, including an innovative coach-led DVD.

The new tools are designed to give teachers everything they need to offer tennis, and to challenge old-fashioned views of the sport. They demonstrate how tennis can be taught in small areas to large groups, whether in the playground or the school hall.

Tennis is the only sport to have developed such an interactive child-facing DVD resource, meaning the pressure of demonstrating tennis skills is taken off the teacher.

The programme also provides the equipment to make it happen and over 7,000 packs have been distributed nationwide completely free-of-charge – the equivalent of  230,000 tennis rackets and 461,000 tennis balls and Mel believes quality experience of tennis at school is key for the long-term growth and success of the sport.

She added: “The resources provided by the Tennis Foundation, including the innovative schools DVD, are great ways to help teachers and coaches develop their knowledge, and boost their confidence in offering quality group tennis lessons. The AEGON Schools Tennis equipment bags also give schools the physical tools they need – whether rackets, balls or nets.”

Says a spokesperson: “It is estimated that 79 per cent of schools already offer tennis but Tennis Foundation research shows many teachers don’t have the confidence to teach tennis to large groups of children*.

“Schools lack equipment or are worried about a lack of space. The tools being rolled out across British Tennis are designed to tackle these barriers. Following the success of AEGON Schools Tennis at primary level, the programme has been extended to secondary schools and was launched earlier this year in February.

“The LTA and Tennis Foundation are also working to build the links between schools and clubs so more young people continue to play the sport and achieve their potential.”

Raddlebarn Primary School sport co-ordinator, Tim Weatherup, said:

“The programme has provided our school with the resources to help enrich the teaching and learning of tennis within the primary curriculum. Having the necessary equipment is the first step to ensuring successful delivery of tennis within our school and will, I am sure, encourage more schools to offer increased opportunities within the game. We also arrange for local coaches to come in and deliver fun sessions to our pupils.”

Raddlebarn Primary School class teacher, Katie Smith, took the tennis session and said:

“The lessons address the key skills needed for pupils to take part in the game and have been enthusiastically received by my pupils.

“As a non-specialist teacher, I have found the resources supportive; bringing expert tuition into the lesson through the use of ICT allows the demonstration of correct technique and has really motivated my children.”

Ian Murray, head of Sponsorship, added: “The work carried out by both the LTA and the Tennis Foundation through AEGON Schools Tennis, is already making great strides in developing tennis as a core part of the sporting curriculum in many primary schools.

“Our support of AEGON Schools Tennis demonstrates the breadth of our partnership with British Tennis. AEGON’s investment into programmes such as this will allow the sport of tennis to develop more strongly at all levels of the game and encourage more people to take up the sport, as well as identifying and nurturing the talent within British Tennis.”

AEGON is the lead partner of British Tennis and is supporting the sport at all levels from grass roots to elite level.

Tennis Foundation: Tom Gibbins 07984 125283 /
Vivien Smiley, Head of Communications 07798 677860 /

Notes to editors:

* Research across schools in England by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF School Sport Survey 2007/08) shows that 79 per cent of schools offer tennis and 42 per cent of schools in England have a formal school-club link.

To date as part of the British Tennis Schools Strategy:

* 7,696 schools have received AEGON Schools Tennis equipment bags so far. These have been distributed free of charge to primary school teachers and other representatives from the school sport infrastructure.

* AEGON Schools Tennis Road Shows run by the Tennis Foundation earlier this year were attended by 600 partnership development managers, school sport co-ordinators, competition managers and teachers.

* ‘Guide to Schools Tennis 2009’ – 7,000 copies of this one-stop-shop summary of the support/resources available to schools and the school sport infrastructure have been circulated, again free of charge, nationwide.

*  Competition – central to talent ID and development, competitions are crucial to keep children excited about tennis, stay involved in the sport and achieve their potential. A new set of schools tennis competitions has been rolled out to complement those already in place. This is part of the sport’s wider drive to boost the number of juniors regularly competing.

* In 2008/9, the LTA and Tennis Foundation trained 3,289 teachers and coaches.

* AEGON (pronounced A-GON) is one of the world’s leading insurance groups with approximately 30 thousand employees world wide and 40 million customers in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

* In September 2008, AEGON UK was announced as the Lead Partner of British Tennis, in a landmark five-year deal with the LTA, which started in January 2009. AEGON supports the game at all levels from grassroots programmes such as AEGON Schools Tennis and AEGON Parks Tennis, through to supporting British talent in the AEGON FutureStars programme and Team AEGON. For further information visit

* Team AEGON is the elite British squad. Team AEGON players receive funding and support from the LTA.

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Contact: Iain S. Bruce
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