SUMMER TENNIS REVIEW
As Cheshire County Cup captain for girls 8’s, 9’s and 10’s age groups, I take a keen interest in the Junior Closed Championships. The 8 and Under event is where I catch my first glimpse of up and coming players, giving me a feel for our team compositions of the future. I also take a good look at what the boys are doing. These are my takeaways from this year’s event, which was held in August at Birchwood Tennis Centre.
I decided to compare our entry numbers with Lancashire’s. Also, I thought it would be worth taking a look at one of the big-hitting counties from the south, so Sussex entries are included.
Participation Numbers in the County Championships
8 & Under Boys
8 & Under Girls
I drew these figures from the completed online draws, which means they don’t tell us the whole story. For example, where Sussex has 16 entries in both orange girls and boys, it may be that they had more entries than that and limited the draw size. Another factor is that not all the players may be the same year group. Out of 13 red girls, Cheshire had at least 5 entrants who were either 6 or 7 and Under. Another factor is standard, which can’t by judged accurately until players compete nationally. It could be that the 4 red Sussex girls might beat all of Cheshire’s under 8 girls. I am not saying that they would, but there is no way to know.
My feelings on this, which are based on experience from captaining national level team events and taking county squads, are:
*We are close in numbers of female players to Lancashire, but they have recently had more national standard girls than Cheshire. More of our girls will need to be reaching grade 2 competition level for us to have real impact.
*The same does not appear to be happening with the boys. I am seeing plenty of our boys being competitive and gaining required skills.
*Other counties seem to be coaching girls to a higher level sooner, and on the next ball colour. The different ball colour does not automatically relate to a better standard, but as a county which has had success, Sussex players are probably ahead.
Awareness of standards note:
I coached Aran Selvaraasan as a young junior, and he qualified for his first green National event when he was still 8. The ball colour is not the point here. His game development and level were on a par with older national players. Not everyone can do this, but it is a guide to where the top-end level is.
On the positive side:
*The Cheshire-player overall standard has recovered after recent lockdown dips
*Both the girls and boys events were very competitive
*Entries were a decent size
*There was plenty of enjoyment and emotional control, with any tears coming after matches. I don’t mind that. If players aren’t competitive enough to care about results, they are not likely to reach higher levels in later years
Things to work on include:
*We have players. Now the job is to ensure they have adequate programmes and detailed coaching, which will help them play a high level well into the future.
*Serves need the greatest development
*Our pool of girls in each age group is not great, so it is important to actively identify, engage, and encourage females. It is the only way toward future County Cup success.