JUDY Murray hopes that Scots in a range of sports can be inspired by her son Andy’s Wimbledon victory – but fears that our national sport does not encourage the sort of mental toughness which is a vital part of top tennis players’ make-up.
Speaking at Hampden yesterday after making the draw for the first round of the Scottish Cup along with her father Roy Erskine, Murray said that thousands of children were now flocking to take up tennis, but that there were not enough coaches to deal with them all. And she insisted that parents had to get involved in coaching their children from infancy if we are to make the most of our sporting talent.
“You would hope there would be a knock-on from Andy’s win and people think that if someone Scottish can do that one of the biggest stages in the world in one of the biggest sports in the world and on his own, then nothing is impossible,” Murray said. “The whole thing about the attitude and belief is so huge. In tennis you’re paying all your expenses as a professional player, not just for yourself but your team of people who travel with you.
“The prizes are great if you get to the very top, but not many players outside the top 100 can make a living from tennis because of the expenses of travelling the world and having a coach and fitness trainer.
“I sometimes wonder with football. You can probably make a decent living from being an average player and youngsters don’t have any outlay because the club provide the kit, training and all the rest of it.
“You get your income whether you play or don’t play and whether you’re injured or not injured and whether you win or lose. In an individual sport, you live or die by your own performance and I sometimes wonder when I see what footballers are earning – does it take away that drive to succeed?
“Life can become quite comfortable at a young age for a teenager or someone in their early 20s who is suddenly getting £5,000 a week. They might say ‘Well, I’m quite happy with that, so I won’t bother working any harder’.
“If you’re a teenage tennis player in the juniors, then there is no prize money but you’re still paying out all the time – or your parents are – and there is that onus on you to work hard and perform and make the most of the opportunities,” Murray continued.
“There’s other things different sports have to look at in order to create that real champion mindset. Andy always had great belief in himself from a very young age, and I wonder if somehow that is connected to him playing his first overseas tournament when he was nine or ten and being successful at a young age.
“He never had that fear of going overseas and everyone being better than him. He went at nine and made a semi somewhere.”
“We live in an age now where youngsters are caught up in reality TV and you get that moment of fame and can make a fortune for doing nothing. It makes life easy but if you want to get to the top in anything, then you have to work your butt off.”
Murray, who is captain of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team, works tirelessly on Set 4 Sport, a programme she has devised with the help of RBS which encourages parents to play a range of games with their young children. She knows that, no matter how popular tennis may be with Scottish children just now, there is not the structure to help them all develop in the sport.
“Every kid wants to try tennis now and we haven’t got facilities throughout the country for them to try it. It’s difficult to really capitalise on the boom. I’ve been saying this for about five years and it’s still driving me nuts.”