Dan Williams is already a keen tennis player so the first-year pupil is delighted that his school, James Gillespie’s, has been chosen as one of the pilots for the new School of Tennis.
Run by the Tennis Foundation charity, the aim is to boost the sport’s popularity by introducing it to secondary schools.
Twenty-one schools across the UK have been selected for the initial scheme and Scotland has three, all in Edinburgh. Gillespie’s is joined by Firrhill and Liberton High.
Judy Murray – Andy’s mum – has run sessions at Liberton High and has also helped in handing out tips to the teachers involved in delivering the service. All age-groups will be taking part but it was Gillespie’s first-year pupils who were the lucky ones invited to attend the official launch at the tennis courts in the Meadows.
Jimmy Wood, the coach at Merchiston Tennis Club, Edinburgh’s rackets development officer, Ryan Harrower, and Gillespie’s head of physical education, Graeme Newall, were all on hand to put the excited group of pupils through their paces.
Gillespie’s new school includes three tennis courts, and Wood will spend six hours a week with the pupils, instructing every year from first to sixth. “At Merchiston, I already coach pupils from George Watson’s, Bruntsfield Primary and a few from Boroughmuir High,” he said. “But it is great to get other schools involved. After the initial period, hopefully I will be able to set up development squads and it will become a long-term project.”
The pilot runs until November and the aim is to have increased the number of schools in the UK to 150 by the end of the year. The chosen schools will all work in conjunction with local clubs – Colinton, Mortonhall, Thistle, Braid and Craigmillar Park join Merchiston and the Meadows for the Edinburgh trial.
Thirteen-year-old Dan, pictured left, already has a taste for tennis. “We have a house in the Borders, near Selkirk, and I play a lot down there with my dad,” said the youngster. “I really enjoy it.”
He is also one of the Murray-influenced generation. “I really look up to Andy,” he said. “He’s a very good player.
“I don’t know if I want to be a professional player but I definitely want to improve and play a lot of tennis. I’m really pleased we are now getting it at school.”
Newall is also delighted to be part of the new wave.
“We were thrilled to be chosen,” he said. “We have done a little bit of tennis, but this is a whole new opportunity.”