Jamie’s Story: Helping tennis to thrive in Hackney – and make difference

Jamie’s Story: Helping tennis to thrive in Hackney – and make difference

Jamie Faint is Head Tennis Coach at Clapton Girls Academy – a role through which he is helping a partnership between the Tennis Foundation and Greenhouse Sports give young people from disadvantaged areas of London the chance to play tennis and experience life opportunities through the sport.

Greenhouse Sports is an organisation that uses inspirational coaching to engage youngsters, and, in working together with them, the Tennis Foundation is seeing more young people picking up a racquet.

Clapton Girls Academy is one of four East London schools supported by a programme which sees both the Tennis Foundation and Greenhouse Sports contributing funding to the school’s Head Tennis Coach role.   Clapton is situated in one of the 30% most deprived areas in the country, and almost 7 in 10 participants in Greenhouse’s tennis and basketball programmes at the school are from BAME groups.  It is a far cry from the strawberries and cream of Wimbledon, but it is a place where tennis is thriving, and what’s more, making a difference.

The results of the work the Tennis Foundation and Greenhouse Sports project are remarkable, and a testament to how tennis can help to change lives – with recent academic research by Loughborough University highlighting a whole range of positive outcomes from the programme.

‘Impressed beyond words’

Jamie, for one, has been impressed beyond words with the impact inclusion in sport has had on his students.

“The attendance and punctuation of the participants on the programme is better than those who aren’t” he explained.

“Behaviour, attainment and attendance are three elements that improve through their involvement in sport. Some students already have those three traits, but others need to work on them.

“This is something which comes gradually, and won’t happen straight away, but the programme certainly helps.

“These can have a big impact on them later in life. We’re setting them up to be more organised and professional when they finish their studies.

“It’s an all-inclusive programme, meaning anyone can join and there are about 100 participants signed up at present. Between 50 and 60 of them are playing one hour a week minimum, with a lot more playing many hours.”

Jamie splits those on the project into two – one for the casual members and one for squad members, for whom more tennis is available because of the funding from the Tennis Foundation.

Providing new opportunities

It isn’t just investment which is supplied either, with those involved on the programme getting the opportunity to take part in upcoming events — providing chances that, without both organisations, they would not have had before.

“The money the Tennis Foundation donates enables us to be in the school full-time,” he stated.

“The Tennis Foundation also donated a sum for facility improvements at the school too, while the opportunities they give, such as allowing the girls to watch the professionals play at the O2 Arena and at Wimbledon, are ones which would never otherwise be there for these pupils.

“Seven of our students worked as ball crew at the NEC Wheelchair Masters, and were part of two of the three finals.

“We’re using sport to give these students the best chance to succeed as adults. The most instrumental people in my career were those based in sport; we’re looking to do the same.”

Tennis participants at Clapton Girls Academy

The work which the programme is doing at the Clapton Girls Academy, led by Jamie, is another example of how the Tennis Foundation supports the development of young people through the power of sport.

“Someone who can guide you from an early age in extremely important. We’re available to offer advice on anything; our door is always open. We take an interest in their academy achievements too. The students realise we care and want them to achieve great things going forward”, concludes Jamie.

Making an impact

The Tennis Foundation’s partnership with Greenhouse Sport is part of the latter’s wider programme to engage young people through sport.  Recent research carried out by Loughborough University on behalf Greenhouse Sports showed improvements in educational outcomes, physical health, mental health, and life skills. Attending the programme raised attainment by a third of a grade in English and 40 per cent of a grade in Maths, while twice the London average exercise for more than 60 minutes a day.

“The key central message to take from the analysis is that there is widespread evidence that engagement with the programme raises attendance and academic performance, and achieves positive behavioural change.” Loughborough University.

To read the research report on Greenhouse Sports’ work in schools click on the links below: