Judy Murray is leading a drive to develop more female tennis coaches in the UK, after admitting too many girls are reluctant to get involved in what she describes as "a man's world".
In an exclusive interview with Female First, the mother of Grand Slam tennis champions Andy and Jamie Murray believes more female coaches are required to step forward, and she is eager to play a leading role in giving girls confidence to lead coaching sessions with male students.
"There is a role model issue here because we don't have too many female coaches and it's something we need to try and change," begins former Great Britain Fed Cup captain Murray, speaking to Female First at The Campus in Quinta do Lago Portugal, where she will be running junior tennis camps in 2019.
"What I have noticed for many years is that whenever I attend a coaching course, there is never a female speaker making a presentation. You occasionally see a female nutritionalist or sports scientist, but the coaching tends to be male-dominated and it doesn't need to be like this.
"Maybe women are not confident enough to put themselves forward to teach what is likely to be a predominantly-male audience on a court and it comes down to that old issue; women who get to the top have to be excellent at what they do if they are in a male-dominated world because the guys are very unforgiving if you slip up.
"I speak at a lot of coaching conferences overseas now. I don't attend because I am desperate to do so, but more to provide a female voice in front of an audience that is usually weighted ten to one male.
"You hope that if they see a female speaking on stage, they might be encouraged to put themselves forward a little more, and you need role models every step of the way.
"When you see a female coach working with little girls, they love her and want to be like her. That is why we need more female role models in tennis coaching and I'm keen to encourage that in any way I can."
Murray's incredible success in guiding her two sons to Wimbledon titles has given her a platform to break down barriers in British tennis for female coaches, with the decision of her son Andy to hire former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as his full-time coach back in 2014 causing a real stir in the sport.
Now Judy is eager to promote 'She Rallies'; an organisation that she has developed for the Lawn Tennis Association, which is aiming to train female coaches to work across Britain with aspiring players.
"The 'She Rallies' programme was designed to get girls into the game and then keeping girls in the game," she added. "We have team competitions, 'Bring A Friend Day', and anything that encourages more people to get involved were included in the programme.
"We also have a specific course for kids aged 5-8 that included lots of sparkles, pinks and purple coloured kits and lots of music that little girls would like to listen to. You have to create a girl-friendly environment because the statistics confirm that girls drop out of the game at a young age when maybe the boys are a little more robust or competitive and continue to play tennis.
"Girls like to spend time with their fiends and and do different things in their teenage years, so you need to understand how they work and create programmes that allow them to do what they want to do in a tennis environment.
"The 'She Rallies' programme also looked into educating coaches [as to] how they can engage better with young girls and looking at the way they communicate and the content they can put on.
"I still have a great desire to drive the sport of tennis to a bigger audience. That may be because I have never got bogged down in the politics of the sport or institutionalised by it all. I still love what I do, but I sense that tennis is in a challenging time. We are competing with so many other distractions now than ever before.
"If kids see tennis as boring, too difficult or too cold, they will go and do something else. We can't just rely on people showing up to play our sport because we have to work harder to get people playing and keeping them there. Too many are slipping away from our sport at the moment."
Judy Murray spoke to Female First at The Campus, Quinta do Lago in Portugal’s Algarve, where she will be hosting junior tennis sessions in 2019. For more information call on +351 289 381 220 to book or email us at the-[email protected].