The inaugural SERVES Tennis Festivals brought together young people from a variety of faith groups in disadvantaged urban communities last weekend.
The festivals in London and Leeds were organised by the Tennis Foundation charity and were attended by over 150 young people - all of whom had played at one of the SERVES 'pop-up' sessions held at over 130 sites every week in places as diverse as mosques, youth centres and church halls.
Young people took part in tennis-based games and activities and played in a fun competition against players from other sites.
Tennis Foundation Community Director, Mike Bain, commented: “Tennis can be a sport for everyone and these festivals proved just that. With SERVES we approach the delivery of what is a traditional sport in a completely different way – one which is relevant to the audience it seeks to engage.
“The programme has really taken off and is helping to bring a much more diverse range of people into the sport. The festivals in both London and Leeds not only showed how much these groups of young people are now enjoying tennis through SERVES, but were also a fantastic showcase of how sport can be a mechanism for social cohesion and bring groups of young people together who may otherwise never have crossed paths.”
SERVES, which has been shortlisted for Community Programme of the Year at next week’s Sport Industry Awards, is the Tennis Foundation’s sport for development programme that takes tennis to new people and new places. The programme has been running for 18 months.
Umar Ahmed, National Projects Officer at Sporting Equals commented: “The SERVES programme enables us to take tennis right to heart of the community, in places such as community centres, youth clubs, mosques and temples. Seeing participants and activators from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate tennis at the first ever SERVES festival was fantastic.
"It’s all about bringing communities together and changing lives through tennis and the SERVES programme is proof we can make that happen!”
Last year saw 5,569 young people take part in SERVES sessions across the country, with over a third of these from BAME communities. There is also a 50:50 gender split in the tennis activators trained as part of the project, with 70% living in areas of deprivation.