“As long as they are playing with smiles on their faces, that’s what matters.”

Adam Cox prides himself on having instilled a love of tennis into dozens of children.

As head coach in charge of tennis development at Skipton Tennis Centre, he believes that

introducing children to the game is a key element of the club’s success. From mini tennis to holiday clubs and summer camps, there is much in place to attract and nurture youngsters.

“At grass roots level the key is fun - it has to be fun, and the coach has to deliver it with enthusiasm and passion,” says Adam, who took on the lease of the club in the early 2000s, turning it into the success it is today.

“Any involvement of children has to work around parents too,” he adds. “It has to be accessible and flexible and has to fit in with their lifestyles. It also has to be affordable.”

This week Adam travelled to London to a special on-court ceremony at the National Tennis Awards at Wimbledon.

He represented the tennis centre, which was recently voted Club of the Year for the North of England in the British Tennis Awards, run by the Lawn Tennis association (LTA).

The club made it to the national finals and at the ceremony was named Club of the Year, beating off rivals from across the country. 

The accolade reflects the efforts made to encourage players of all ages and abilities to enjoy tennis and progress as far as they can in the sport.

“We have many very good juniors who come down for coaching and enjoy it and then return to play with friends. It is very much about reaching out into the community and showing people what is available here.”

The club has seen a “huge growth” in school initiatives, with a successful outreach programme, providing between 600 and 700 primary school children with a weekly lesson.

“We have very supportive schools, which helps a lot,” says Adam.

Other initiatives to promote interest in tennis include links with local businesses. Keelham Farm Shop and Walker Foster Solicitors are among firms which are hosting pop-up tennis courts at their premises to promote the sport.

“One of the categories for the awards was innovative ways to grow the game, and introduce more people to it,” says Adam.

In Bradford Heaton Tennis Club has for many years run successful programmes for youngsters from age four. “We have quite a few younger children who take part in our mini tennis programme running up the age ten,” says head coach Matt McTurk. “Then they join a group for older children.”

The junior coaching programme at Heaton is one of the fastest growing in the county, with more than 200 children attending weekly coaching & match-play sessions.

The club also runs a performance scheme which enables those who display above-average ability to move towards county training.

“A number of our youngsters attend the county training,” says Matt. “There is a pathway for them and we work with the LTA to support that.

Most youngsters go along once or twice a week. “They enjoy coming. Being part of the club is very good socially,” says Matt. “If they want to progress we encourage them to play in matches, or in club tournaments or to play in one of the club teams - we have them in every age group.”

Red, orange and green ball colours mark the different age groups playing mini tennis. “They can compete at different levels using ball colours,” says Matt.

Older player are encouraged to play competitively. “Being part of a team is good for them, and they can challenge themselves.”

“Playing also teaches discipline and responsibility. It is all part of their development - it is not just about coaching. It is brilliant seeing children progress over time. You can see them build confidence and be as good as they can be - that is why we do it.”

He adds: “I think the nice thing at Heaton is that we have a mix of ages and a diverse ethnic group of children from a range of backgrounds, and with a range of abilities.

The club works with Bradford-based International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) to introduce tennis to people living with physical or mental disability.

The club offers a schools outreach programme to help grow the game locally and increase participation. “We also run tennis camps through the holidays which are a great way to get children started in tennis.”

As well as tennis clubs in the Bradford district, a number of Bradford Council-run courts can be booked for a small fee. These include Northcliffe Park in Shipley and Ilkley Lido tennis courts.