Kelly’s Story: How Greenhouse Sports is helping the Tennis Foundation grow the sport in East London boroughs

Kelly’s Story: How Greenhouse Sports is helping the Tennis Foundation grow the sport in East London boroughs

Kelly Montgomery is Programme Manager at Greenhouse Sports, a London-based sports charity that is helping the Tennis Foundation broaden horizons through tennis and bring new opportunities to young people in some of the most deprived areas of London.

Greenhouse Sports work to help young people from boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney create better life opportunities than they may have previously been afforded. The seven-year partnership between Greenhouse and the Tennis Foundation has seen tennis used as a tool to do this.

Working in local schools, the tennis programmes have now reached almost 6,000 children and young people in the area, with around 400 of those participating in extra-curricular tennis activity as well.

Kelly, who joined Greenhouse in 2011 as the charity looked to expand their coverage to those east London boroughs, has revealed the important role the partnership with the Tennis Foundation has played in bringing tennis to areas in which the sport wasn’t prominent.

“It was our joint initiative with the Tennis Foundation. All four of our programmes are currently in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham, and most of these places didn’t really have tennis clubs or good facilities,” she said.

“But that’s changing now, things are improving. It’s rare that our coaches come across someone who has played tennis before, so we are reaching young people that, without our programmes being at their schools, would never have the opportunity to play.

“We reach every single child in each school because we run lunch clubs, taster sessions and help in PE lessons, so our coaches have made a big impact. There’s roughly 1,200 to 1,500 children in each of the four schools.

“The Tennis Foundation has allowed us to grow our tennis programme – we’re pushing tennis as the sport we want to grow most because of the extra support we have from them, it’s the easiest to expand. The funding has continued and we have an agreement for it to increase year on year, so we will gradually reach even more children.”

With so many children now playing tennis thanks to the impact of Greenhouse Sports and the Tennis Foundation, it’s likely that one or two stars of the future could come through the ranks, although for Kelly, that’s not the most important thing.

Each of the four tennis coaches that Greenhouse Sports hire to run their tennis programmes are of an impressive level – three are currently at LTA Level 4, with the fourth currently working towards Level 4 – but it’s what happens off the court that has the biggest impact.

“It’s not about creating amazing sportspeople, although that happens almost by default because we employ high-level coaches. Our ethos is to give young people better life chances.”

“Our focus is on leadership, and now we’ve got four girls who are LTA Level 1 coaches themselves and are starting to get out in the community and volunteer. There are lots of stories along the leadership pathway because we’re looking to give them employability skills as well.

“We teach them social, emotional, physical and mental skills through our coaching. We do a lot of mentoring too so our coaches might not always be on the tennis court, they might be supporting a young person that comes to tennis in a lesson or a difficult situation at school.

“We’ve recently carried out some research with Loughborough University to find out about the impact Greenhouse Sports is having. We found that Greenhouse participants attended school four more days per year than other students, so we feel the Tennis Foundation are not just impacting on tennis and sports, but are affecting young peoples’ lives for the better.”

Greenhouse’s partnership with Tennis Foundation not only brings opportunities to play tennis, but also to watch and partake in major events across the region, such as being members of the ball crew at the Wheelchair Masters, among others.

The cream of the crop though? The annual visit to Wimbledon that even the teachers get excited about.

“We absolutely love it. We’ve had this relationship for seven years and each year our young people have the opportunity to go to Wimbledon which is something they’d never do.

“The Tennis Foundation supply us with 20 passes per school, so there will be 80 of us in total rocking up in our Greenhouse t shirts – even the teachers come along and it’s something they would never do either. It’s the highlight of the year.”