Judy Murray

Judy Murray

Judy Murray has teamed up with RBS to develop the Set4Sport programme, which aims to more parents and young children active.

Judy has developed a series of games that she played with her sons that will get kids away from the television and developing skills such as movement and balance.

We caught up with Judy to chat about the scheme, the games she played with Andy and Jamie and what lies ahead.

- You are working on a campaign called Set4Sport so can you tell me a little bit about it and how you got involved?

It came about through an opportunity with RBS, who have one of Andy and Jamie’s sponsors for about ten years now, and they wanted to develop a community sports programme.

So I put together a collection of a lot of the childhood games that we had played with Andy and Jamie when they were growing up; which were very simple and fun games that we had invented to be played at home using pretty much anything we had lying around the house. I was trying to keep two very young boisterous boys occupied without spending a lot of money as well as tiring them out.

I came from a very sporty family and so my mum and dad played with us a lot - my dad was a footballer and my mum played a number of sports at county level - so wanting to play sporty things and active things with my kids was just second nature.

But what I also knew from my tennis coaching days is that less and less kids are co-ordinated than they were years ago because the things that are trendy to play with a sedentary.

Kids walk less place and they bike less places because more families have cars and probably because parents have more money but less time to play with their kids themselves. But also there are many parents who don’t have that sporty background or creativity to know how to play actively with their kids.

So this was an opportunity to think ‘we have all these thing that we use to do’ so I put them down on paper and turned them into a programme called Set4Sport - this is backed by a website where you can download all of the programmes free of charge and there is also a free book.

We launched two years ago and in year one we had the website and the book and we did about twelve road show dates around Britain from parents and kids to come along to to try out the games.

The idea was to show parents who to play these games, how simple they were and how you could use things likes washing line rope, cushions and cuddly toys to help to develop the co-ordination skills in your kids.

Then in year two we have launched the app and we ran an number of competitions to win bags of equipment as well as the running a number of play dates; the Set4Sport team took Set4Sport into nurseries, schools and clubs to the winners.

This year we are going on the road with it and we are running a number of competitions through websites and the media and on our own website for people to win play dates with us; that is going to run from May right through until October.

- We are hearing more and more about the obesity levels in children so why do you think physical activity and sport has fallen so much by the wayside?

One of the main reasons is that there is less P.E. in schools than there use to be and there are also less open spaces for children to play; you don’t get kids playing football in the street like they use to and a lot of parks say ‘no ball games’.

I think more families have cars and so kids don’t walk or bike to as many places as they use to. We have adopted a more sedentary lifestyle across the board, I think.

Last year with the Olympic was such a huge opportunity for kids and parents to get excited by all sorts of different sports and get out and try things.

I think rather than paying for someone to take your child for a football lesson or a tennis lesson is to actually get out and play with your kids yourself; one it is less expensive and two it is much more fun. I think we should put a little more onus on the parents to get out there and engage physically with their children.

- So can you tell me a bit about the games that you can play and the skills that they develop?

There are fourteen games in the collection and each game has a number of offshoots or variations of it. The key is to start with something that is very simple so that kids can do and they build confidence and then you can make it more difficult.

We have a game called Jumping The River and you start out with two pieces of rope a foot apart to create a river. Once you can jump over it you can move the rope and you are then challenging them to jump further; to jump further it means that they have to use their legs more and that helps to develop leg strength.

You could put a hoop or target area on the other side of the river so it you are not only jumping over the river but also trying to land on the island. If the challenge is to land on the island/in the hoop without falling out of it then it helps to develop dynamic balance.

If you look at a sport such as basketball or netball where you have to run with a ball or jump with a ball and catch a ball in mid air that would be the kind of skills you begin to develop with that.

You can develop this further by bringing throwing and catching into the game; so you jump over the river, land in the island and then the parent is at the other side of the island with a ball; so you have to catch a ball and keep your balance as well. Then they thrown in back and begin to develop a throwing skill.

And you can mix it up by running and jumping over the river, a standing jump over the river or a hop over the river. When you are developing co-ordination skills in kids as soon as they can do something quite easily you should find a way of making it more difficult so they have to think about how to work out a solution to it.

The solution is something that is physical but they actually have to use their brain to think about it; making them thing is another great thing about this programme.

You can bring in a scoring system so it can be competitive between siblings. But the games are designed so they can be played by one parent and one child or one parent and more children.

There is a game called ‘Tidy Your Room’ and that was born out of having very untidy children. It can be as simple as putting the laundry basket in the middle of the bedroom and getting the stopwatch out and saying ‘in twenty seconds who can throw the most things into the basket?’ Or it could be you are picking up the clothes and are running with them to the laundry basket.

The first one would develop the throwing skills and the aiming skills and gets them use to throwing things of different shapes and sizes towards a target. The other game helps with speed off the mark, change of direction and agility; you can see how you would use that in an awful lot of different ball sports.

But the kids are just having fun and are learning without realising while you get a tidy room at the end of it - that was always the beauty (laughs).

- A scheme like this can kick off a child's interest in sport and see them play sport on a regular basis. The key is keeping them in sport. Now you have two very successful sons who took up tennis and have stuck with it. So how difficult was it keeping them in sport and making them realise that they could have a career?

When Jamie and Andy were young they tried ever sport under the sun from ice skating to rugby and tumble tots. The Set4Sport programme is aimed at kids between three and eight - I found with my kids that by the age of eight they were starting to choose what they wanted to do and what they didn’t want to do. Up to that point you, as the parent, have probably selected for them.

Because they were very well co-ordinated by the age of eight it wouldn’t have mattered what sport they had chosen to try they would have been pretty good at them. By the age of fourteen Andy was playing as much football as he was tennis and he could have gone down the football route as he had the opportunity to join the Rangers youth squad at fourteen; it was at that point that she chose to go with tennis.

Jamie was a junior champion at golf and he had a handicap of three when he was fifteen or sixteen. So they both did other sports to a very good level but at a young age they tried pretty much everything and enjoyed everything. Then you get to stage where you can’t do everything and you want to do a little bit more of the ones that you enjoy the most.

I guess as a parent it is all about creating opportunities and it up to the kids to take the opportunities; some opportunities are easy to create while others are very difficult (laughs). As long as they are enjoying it and working hard to improve then that is all that you can ask for.

- We are hearing more often that it is harder to keep girls interested in sport as they hit their teens so why do you think that is? And what need to be done to change that?

I think it is tougher with girls as they are generally not as naturally competitive. You have to look at what girls enjoy doing; they like playing together with their friends and so you need to look at how you can create all girl classes and opportunities to play as a team in a not so threatening way.

I have found as soon as you put girls of a certain age in a mix group where the boys are competitive, noisy and aggressive that can be very off-putting for the girls. You often find that girls drop out of sport because their friends drop out or they get to an age where they are more concerned with how they look.

But there are so many great role-models in female sport that it is about using them to show girls that you can look fantastic and be very sporty and very active at the same time. I also think that another key to keeping girls in sport is to have more female coaches.

More female coaches will understand a look after the needs of girls much better than male coaches; simply because we understand our own. So I think that we definitely need to develop a bigger and stronger female coaching workforce across all sports.

- Away from the campaign you have had huge success as the British Fed Cup captain so how would you sum up that experience so far - you have come close to the world group two years on the trot?

I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I started in December 2011 and it was a big opportunity for me as well as a big challenge for me as I had no experience of the women’s side of the game; all my experiences had been through juniors and on the men’s tour. So it was a big learning curve for me.

I just threw myself into it last year trying to get to know not just the women’s tour but also our girls and their coaching teams as well as I could. Last year was a big year for us as we managed to get our of our Euro/Africa zone and into a world group playoff; we didn’t quite make it into the world group. But then we had the Olympics which is a GB team sport.

There have been some great learning experiences for me and we had some success and we had some great fun along the way. We have developed a really nice team spirit amongst the girls that perhaps wasn’t there before.

Tennis is an individual sport for the vast majority of the year and I think what we have managed to do is bring everyone closer together, supporting each other better, spending more time together and keeping in touch. There is a really nice vibe at the moment.

- It does seem to be an exciting time for women's tennis in the UK at the moment with Laura Robson and Heather Watson coming through. So how would you sum up the state of men and women's British tennis at the moment - the Davis Cup squad could achieve something very special later this year?

I can probably speak better on the women’s side at the moment. I certainly see the emergence of Laura and Heather on to the world stage, both inside the top fifty now.

At the beginning of last year they were both around a hundred and twenty and they both ended the year inside the top fifty and that was a significant achievement for both of them. It was also an exciting time for Laura as she won a silver medal in the mixed doubles at the Olympics.

They are two really fun girls, they look fantastic and they are very different from each other; we have a left hander and a right hander and their styles of play are completely different. But they have huge personalities and they have huge futures in the games.

So it is a perfect time for British tennis to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to take up the sport and stay in the sport.

There is definitely a job to be done by British tennis to get more girls playing tennis at a grass roots level as we don’t have anywhere near enough. We also need to develop more female coaches to help us make that happen and to keep those young girls in the game for longer.

On the men’s side there is a chance for the Davis Cup to get up into the world group. We do have a number of very successful doubles players in Britain on the men’s side but on the singles side we still really only have Andy as our only player inside the top two hundred.

There is no way that you can mount a campaign to win the Davis Cup with just one player inside the top hundred. There is little margin for error there and you really do need to have a solid number two if you are going to do any damage in that competition.

But there is a very exciting prospect coming through called Kyle Edmund and he is starting to make some good strides in the lower rungs of the men’s game. So in a few years time he could be some very good back-up for Andy.

- You have seen both of your sons become Grand Slam champions and you have had to endure some very tight matches so how do you find sitting and watching?

I find it very very stressful; I actually thought that it would get easier over the years but it has actually got worse. I think as the expectation has risen then it has just made it tougher and tougher. I always describe it as severe nausea and a heart attack going on at the same time.

- Finally what is next for you?

We are in the middle of the grass season and this is a good opportunity for me to watch all of the girls as well as the next tier down compete; the LTA owns all of the tournaments that are in Britain and so there is an opportunity to give wildcards entries to a lot of our players. So that gives me a chance to see as many of them as I can.

The week before Wimbledon we have a match GB against the USA called the Maureen Connelly Trophy; that is our best juniors aged between fifteen and seventeen against the Americans. I co-captain that team and it gives me the chance to see the best young girls that are coming through and sit on court with them in a similar experience to what the Fed Cup would be. Hopefully they will be our Fed Cup players of the future.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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