Judy Murray weighs in on Scotland’s obesity problem

Judy Murray at the David Lloyd centre in Glasgow. Picture: Paul Chappells
Judy Murray at the David Lloyd centre in Glasgow. Picture: Paul Chappells
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Judy Murray has never been the type to sit idly by and settle for the status quo when she could be taking up arms and doing battle with the next ogre on the horizon and this time she has you, and me, firmly in her sights.

Tennis’ answer to the Duracell Bunny is setting up her very own Judy Murray Foundation; a one-woman crusade against our ever-expanding waistlines.

“Our obesity problem that we have in Scotland absolutely kills me, so this is me trying to do my bit to get people off the couch and get them enjoying exercise again,” she says by way of explanation. “I am setting up my own foundation next month.”

More details to follow, no doubt, but no-one can accuse Murray of not practising what she preaches.

She is already fighting on two fronts; taking tennis into parts of the country which have little or no exposure to the sport and leading a campaign to encourage more girls and women back into tennis.

“We have been doing this thing for the last four years, Tennis on the Road,” she explains. “Just taking a van full of equipment with me and one driver into deprived and rural areas.

“We build workforces and we don’t mind if they have courts or not. You can start playing tennis in school halls, on badminton courts, school playgrounds and we recognise that tennis can be expensive. We have been going for about four years, with 200 days 
completed.

“Now we have identified three areas and we will stay over a three-year period and work with those people, to build workforces, show them how to run events, we’ll link it all together through schools, parks, clubs. If they don’t have clubs we will create the demand and then, in areas that don’t have courts, we will use that demand to influence local authorities to build courts.”

If, like me, you are a little cynical about local councils’ willingness to build tennis courts across the country when they can’t fill the potholes that blight our roads, you bet against Murray at your peril.

She is a force of nature and, if determination alone 
was enough, the courts would be halfway completed by 
now.

Murray is not to be gainsaid. She has already organised her She Rallies scheme on behalf of the LTA which introduced 56 female coaches across the UK, six of whom operate in Scotland, with the view to encouraging girls back into the sport by offering an all-female learning experience.

“In the tennis environment there is a need for a girl-only option,” Murray argues 
the case for a female only 
lessons. A huge amount of the girls who drop out of sport at a young age do so because they are intimidated by the boys who are just naturally more robust, more physical, more competitive.

“Girls are different emotionally and they are different physically. I showed them (David Lloyd coaches) that today. I took a class of wee girls. I showed them how to engage. Having girl-only options is 
crucial.”

The LTA is even now crunching the numbers to see how effective the 56 ambassadors have been at converting the unbelievers.

Young Scottish boys, I point out, at least have two role models to emulate in the form of Andy and Jamie Murray and surely it would be good if the young Scottish girls had a 
similar superstar in the female ranks?

“Of course, it would be because that provides the profile and the inspiration but what happened with Andy and Jamie… the role model is great because they provide profile, but any sport is only as good 
as its grass roots and, I 
have been saying this for years, because it (Andy and Jamie’s success) hasn’t made that 
much difference to tennis in Scotland.

“I don’t think we will ever sort out performance properly until we sort grassroots and that for me is courts in state schools or courts in public parks for an inexpensive activity, and we could really grow the numbers.”

We are talking in the David Lloyd centre in Glasgow, where Murray is coaching the coaches to be more family friendly. However, the cost of a skinny latte in the cafe alone 
is enough to exclude something like 90 per cent of the population.

Facilities, or rather the lack of them or the cost of accessing them, is a constant sore in Scotland.

There are just 12 pay-and-play facilities across the country and, as Murray points out: “If you can’t play all year round, you can’t coach all year round and, if you can’t coach all year round, you can’t use that as a career.”

Those 12 facilities have remained the same over the last 11 years, exactly when Andy was at the pinnacle of his chosen sport.

Incidentally, his mum won’t be drawn on when Junior is going to make his comeback after undergoing hip surgery in January of this year, other than to offer: “He’ll be ready when he’s ready.”