Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge visited Casuarina Street Primary School today to encourage students to pick up a racquet and learn tennis.
As part of the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots Racquet Roadshow, tennis ambassadors are delivering 110,000 racquets to students Australia wide by year end.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion delivered brand new tennis racquets to transition students at Casuarina Primary, the only school in Katherine to be visited by Mr Woodbridge.
First time visitor to Katherine, Mr Woodbridge said he hopes his visit triggers positivity and puts tennis on the radar.
“Historically, so many great tennis champions have come from regional towns.
“I’ve found that regional school kids are more active and fitter and more engaged than what you find in the city. There is a big difference.
“The great thing about this program is planting the seed in these young kids and seeing that take off,” Mr Woodbridge said.
Mr Woodbridge said the Hot Shots program makes tennis more accessible to students and is getting Katherine on track.
With the aim of growing the sport in the region, the next part of the Hot Shots program strategy is to ensure there are good “places to play”, Mr Woodbridge said.
It is also important to have coaches who are willing to stay, a feat Katherine often has difficulty with.
Getting kids started in tennis is an important aspect in creating an environment which attracts and supports coaches to stay in the role, Mr Woodbridge said.
“For a coach to stay you need kids rolling through.
“The program is a win win for kids and coaches. If we can create a basis of kids playing tennis in Katherine then there is a greater incentive for a coach to stay,” Mr Woodbridge said.
Physical education teacher Rodney Gregg has been a part of the program from the beginning five years ago and has seen student’s tennis skills improve.
Mr Gregg said that with every student in the school owning a racquet, participation levels are good.
“It’s a fantastic program and we have seen the encouragement of fair play and sportsmanship the kids are learning in tennis has a flow on effect to other sport,” Mr Gregg said.
The ANZ Tennis Hot Shots is Tennis Australia’s official development program specifically designed to introduce primary school children between five and 12 years of age to tennis.
The aim is to make sure every student has a racquet in hand.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said he is committed, along with ANZ, to increasing tennis participation and ensuring kids are active at school.
“Schools play a huge role in the development of children, and at Tennis Australia we want to continue to support schools in providing an environment where the health and well being of students is a top priority,” Mr Tiley said.
Mr Woodbridge spent the day at Casuarina Street Primary School ensuring all students received a positive message about tennis.
He also spent the afternoon coaching year one and two students.