What began as a small tennis programme at Bradford Grammar School (BGS) has become a place for pupils to enjoy the game and nurture their elite ambitions, with the school now officially registered as a tennis club.

The rhythmic thwack of tennis ball on racket can be heard long before you reach Bradford Grammar School’s huge indoor sports barn. Inside, several students are in mid-rally, concentration etched on their faces.

Ben Crichton, BGS’s specialist sports coach tennis, walks along the edge of the barn and watches his young charges carefully.

“Step into the ball Harry and release your back foot,” he coaches.

Ben started BGS’s tennis programme four years ago and, last year, the popular scheme expanded to Junior School pupils from Year 4. Like many of BGS’s sports specialists, Ben was a top athlete in his field. He began playing tennis aged 11 and at 16 was accepted onto the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme. By the age of 18 he was ranked one of the top 30 players in the UK.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ben Crichton, BGS’s specialist sports coach tennisBen Crichton, BGS’s specialist sports coach tennis (Image: Bradford Grammar School)
He says: “The tennis programme at BGS has really taken off and we now give lessons to around 70 children per week and have group sessions every night after school. It can be accommodated around busy school timetables so those who are keen to learn and play better tennis don’t have to travel off site.

“It’s really made a difference to pupil performance. We won both age groups of the Bradford parks league over the summer, beating many West Yorkshire clubs, and we won every age group and every division of LTA schools team tennis this summer in West Yorkshire. It means we’ll have a team in every regional final event in October.”

Pupils benefitting from the programme include Jameela Terzic, who is currently ranked in the UK’s top 50 tennis players under the age of 12. The twelve-year-old county representative plays for the school’s girls’ 1st team and in the U18s tennis league in Yorkshire in Division 1.

“She’s very ambitious and is passionate about the sport,” says Ben. “She gets support with strength and conditioning and has individual tennis sessions three times per week. She then plays on Tuesday nights with Year 10 and below and on Thursdays with Year 12 and 13 boys - who hit the ball harder. It’s really toughened her up. All her sport is on site so there’s no disruption to her personal life.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:  Jameela Terzic Jameela Terzic (Image: Bradford Grammar School)
Jameela hurries over after finishing a rally with her opponent. She started playing tennis aged four when her dad took her to her local park.

“Since I started at BGS I’ve played a lot more tennis and I’ve been winning more tournaments,” she says. “The strength and conditioning sessions also help keep my muscles strong, improve my speed and prevent any injuries. The teachers understand you and Mr Crichton has helped a lot. It’s also great that we don’t have to play in the rain!”

Asked about her future and she replies confidently: “I’m going to try and get into the top 10 in the UK. Then when I’m older, who knows?”

BGS carries out tours of all its sports facilities with opportunities to speak to specialist sports staff during its Open Days. The next event is on Saturday 7 October. For more information log onto bradfordgrammar.com/signup