Young people at two primary schools have taken up King Henry VIII’s favourite sport – real tennis – in an imaginative partnership initiative between Queen’s Club and Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
A dozen children aged 10 to 12 have learned a shoal of new words, from dedans (a spectator window) to tambour (a buttress which deflects tennis balls) as they absorb the mysteries of the historic game.
Cllr Sue Fennimore, H&F Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, said: “The real tennis project at Queen’s Club is a fantastic bridge between history and sport.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for pupils to take part in a sport that they would not have otherwise encountered.”
The Queen’s Club outreach project is in its second term of supporting Normand Croft community school and Sir John Lillie primary in real tennis and squash.
Twice a week the young players have the chance to use the club’s famous indoor court, which was constructed in 1886 – the year of the club’s formation.
The rare chance to experience the unusual sport has also fuelled studies of the Tudors in the students’ history lessons.
Backed by the Queen’s Club Foundation and The Dedanists Foundation, which are jointly funding the initiative with the Queen’s Club, school PE teachers have been accompanying groups of young players to the famous court.
Initially the pilot project covered squash… but now there is no stopping the juniors from learning the finer points of a game which initially gained popularity in England in the early 1400s.
Queen’s Club coaches share their skills, with an impact also being felt in the classroom.
“The positive on-court experiences are having a hugely beneficial impact when the children settle down to their lessons on returning to school,” said Victoria Kovacs, PE teacher at Normand Croft.
Matt Treweeke from Sir John Lillie agreed. “They are gaining confidence which transmits to many different areas of their school day. Being able to use the facilities at Queen’s Club to teach our students is a valuable experience.”
So successful has the project been in introducing the young pupils to sport that plans are already being made to extend it beyond the summer.