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Business, Goals Edition Rebecca McDonald

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By: Rebecca McDonald •  4 years ago •  

I grew up in the Grampians, in Halls Gap, a small town 300km west of Melbourne. With about 300 people, it is a real tourist destination with a national park for bushwalking and hiking. In the winter, the boys played football and the girls netball, and in the summer the boys played cricket and the girls played tennis. It was natural that these would be my two sports. I was given my first wooden tennis racquet on Christmas day when I was 6. The racquet was soon used for a game of backyard cricket by my brother, who broke it that afternoon.

My mum and dad were heavily involved in the community and our family were all members of the Halls Gap Tennis Club which consisted of three asphalt tennis courts. Located beside the school with a small club house and hitting wall, it was an easy to walk from school to the courts.

Our primary school put together a team to play against other small country towns in the area like Great Western, Concongella, Moyston and Pomonal. My parents played a huge part in my involvement in the sport and would regularly take me to play. Mum played a lot and was quite handy but sadly my Dad had no tennis talent whatsoever. He was great fun to be around though and was always there to drive me where I needed to go without being pushy.

I remember spending a lot of time in the car with Dad, driving to places like Warrnambool, Birchip, Mildura, Melbourne or Horsham for training and tournaments. Billy Joel featured in the car regularly, with my good luck song, “River of Dreams”, which Dad and I would belt out driving down the highway. My parents gave up a lot of their time to take me to tennis, however, they did make me strip all the linen and take out the garbage for the motel rooms as payback for the travel.

Changing Directions

Growing up, much like every young person, I wanted to be a professional tennis player and I played a lot of tournaments in Victoria and interstate. The School Boys and School Girls in Melbourne and representing my region at the interregional championships. I won a lot of those tournaments as a junior and was invited to week long camps with the then state selector and coach John McCurdy.

When I was 14, I had the opportunity to go to Caulfield Grammar on a sports scholarship but at that point I wasn’t ready to leave home. At 16, my parents asked me if I would like to go to school in Ballarat, at Ballarat Grammar, as I was spending a lot of my time on buses going back and forth for tennis. I became a boarder for the last two years of school and though I was still playing lots of tennis, I started to realise that I was not going to make it as a professional tennis player.

If I was not going to be a tennis player, then I wanted to be a teacher. I’m so fortunate now because I get to work on both my passions; Tennis and Education. My initial reasons for getting involved in coaching was to give back to the sport and to share the joy with kids at a grassroots level.

I’ve now been at Tennis Australia for almost six years now, having started in the community tennis department growing the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots program. In June 2014, Tennis Australia made schools its own area, recognising that education needs programs and content that are a perfect fit. My role is it create and write programs for teachers and help educate coaches on those programs and how they can work with schools to further their businesses.

Tennis Australia has programs for primary, secondary and university environments. The Secondary School programs are very different from the Primary Schools programs and feature more movement, cardio and fitness components. The University programs are different again and are tailored specifically to each campus.

The Schools department is responsible for the development and implementation of programs and initiatives in kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions to grow the game of tennis. With the goal to grow the game, the strategy revolves around four key objectives.

1. Kindergarten: Develop the basic building blocks

2. Primary School: Install the confidence and competence to play

3. Secondary School: Embed the team passion

4. Universities: Become a deliverer of the sport

School Programs & Resources – Primary & Secondary

The Tennis for Schools Programs has been created by Tennis Australia with two aims.

1. To support teachers with the delivery of quality physical education programs

2. To provide opportunities for local coaches to connect with schools.

The programs have been developed in conjunction with the Australian Council for Health & Physical Education (ACHPER) and aligns to the National Curriculum Health & Physical Education (HPE). Tennis Australia recognises that it is important for the sport to be aligned to the educative outcomes that teachers and coaches are delivering during scheduled health and physical education classes.

Tennis for Schools Resources

The Tennis for Schools resources aim to support students with movement, confidence and skill acquisition through structured and unstructured play. These resources combine a ‘game-sense’ and guided questioning approach to developing ‘tennis games sense’ in students and have been written and targeted at grade room teachers. This is especially important in the primary school environment where some teachers do not feel confident in the delivery of tennis.

The educative, games sense approach to pedagogy has importance to the development of the General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum and can therefore be delivered across all learning areas. Teachers may choose to deliver lesson learning intentions to general capabilities that emphasise personal and social capabilities, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour and literacy and numeracy.

There are three programs available to schools, to ensure that schools and teachers can choose their level of commitment and involvement to the sport. This way, the outcomes and goals of the school will dictate the program chosen.

The three programs available include:

1. School Partnership Program (delivered during curriculum time)

2. School Play Program (supports the facilitation of competition and school sport)

3. Teacher Ambassador Program (engages teachers at an entry level)

School Partnership Program

The goal of our School Partnership Program is to have tennis in the health and physical education curriculum for a four to six-week block and to connect schools with their local club and coach, creating a direct pathway for students to participate outside of school hours.

Tennis Australia recognises the important role that coaches play within schools and encourages all coaches to be aligned in a meaningful relationship with no more than three schools. One of the core objectives of the program is to ensure that coaches have an understanding of the school, their culture and how they can support with developing a holistic approach to students, education and their wellbeing. The requirements of coaches and how they are now engaged in schools has shifted over the years. Coaches need to move beyond being an external person who visits the school once or twice a year. Coaches should ensure that their relationships with the principal and teachers exist all year round and that they are fully immersed in the school.

To ensure tennis as a sport has relevance within the school environment we have constructed our programs around education and not necessarily sport, especially in the School Partnership Program. We recognise the impact that sport and physical activity can have on students and their wellbeing and how important it is for students to be having fun and moving. Tennis is just one of many activities that can lead to a positive influence on students including increased movement, participation, academic performance and behaviour.

Tennis has taken a holistic approach to developing programs and providing support to schools and since the introduction of the Tennis for Schools Programs, 1,400 schools have engaged with the program and additional support has been provided to 2,500 teachers with the sport.

In supporting teachers, part of our strategy has been to engage and introduce pre service teachers to the sport through universities and tertiary institutions. Since the introduction of modified equipment, the perception for delivering tennis as a net-court category has shifted, with most teachers and undergraduates seeing that it is a much easier sport to teach. The use of the smaller courts, racquets and softer tennis balls ensures that all students are able to actively play the game no matter what their age or ability. We are apply a number of constraints to playing the game which ensures fun and enjoyment whilst each student is also challenged.

The university component to our Schools strategy is crucial, as it provides an avenue to educate pre service teaches even before they have stepped into the classroom. It also provides an opportunity to expose tennis in different capacities such as coaching and volunteerism as we appreciate that teaches may choose a different career path in the future.

The landscape of education is changing and the role that coach’s play within schools has also shifted. With a new National Curriculum and a real focus on health and movement, coaches have the opportunity to align their strategy and business goals with the developing school environment. Schools are an important ingredient to the success of coaching businesses, and more than ever, have the ability to influence and impact the lives of the students and school community.

Final thoughts

I would recommend every coach take these three tips to heart.

1. Be aligned to a primary or secondary school.

2. Invest the time and develop the relationships as it will pay dividends in the long run.

3. Take a more holistic focus on your business as the Education sector is changing with the introduction of the

National Curriculum Health & Physical Education, so expect to play a bigger role.

For more information visit www.tennis.com.au/Schools_________________________________________________________

Rebecca McDonald is the Tennis in Schools Manager at Tennis Australia and has worked for Tennis Australia for over six years. She is passionate about both Tennis and Education, making her a perfect fit for the role.

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