Norfolk tennis chairman calls for more female-only groups to get girls into the sport

The chairman of a tennis club in North Norfolk believes offering female-only groups could hold the key to attracting more girls to the sport.

According to the LTA, only 30% of the 1.3 million people who play tennis on a monthly basis are female.

There's also a chronic shortage of female coaches. In fact, 76% of the 5,700 accredited coaches nationwide are men.

Kelvin van Hasselt, who is the chairman of Cromer Lawn Tennis & Squash Club, has recently started up a junior club for girls on Sunday afternoons in a bid to create a more comfortable environment for female players.

Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation has shown that some girls feel intimidated in mixed coaching groups and that can lead to them leaving the sport.

Due to the lack of female coaches, they also often lack female role models which can also result in them turning their back on tennis.

"I think there's a lack of female coaches, because there's a lack of female players. I mean, only 30% of players in clubs are female, and that's the same in this club here," Mr van Hasselt told ITV News Anglia.

"There isn't the base on which to draw female coaches - I haven't got any 14, 15-year-olds who can become level 1 coaches aged 16 - I haven't got any!"

It's hoped girls-only groups will attract more girls to the sport. Credit: ITV News Anglia

At Cromer, Lisa Stickles is one of two female coaches.

She agrees that girls often feel uncomfortable when they're surrounded by boys.

"The way that boys behave in a tennis lesson and the way that girls behave is really different, and girls can find that really irritating," she said.

"They can also be a bit intimidated if the boys are just wanting to hit the balls really hard all the time and I think having a girls-only environment, they'll feel a little bit more secure and a bit more confident to play at their best ability."

Tennis bosses are desperate to build on the recent success of Emma Raducanu at the US Open, but Mr van Hasselt says it's important clubs don't just expect her victory to do all the work for them.

Emma Raducanu sensationally won the US Open earlier this month. Credit: PA

"I think a lot of people are saying: 'Oh, Emma Raducanu will do it all for us'. She'll help, but you have to, as a club, make a nice comfortable environment for girls to join - like having a girls-only group, like having female coaches, like making the parents welcome," he said.

"You have to work jolly hard. Emma Raducanu helps, but we at the club have got to do the hard work as well. This is what I think should be done throughout the country - to give girls the choice."