Sport & Leisure

The tennis club taking WhatsApp lessons into Glasgow’s backyards and hallways

By Ian Marland at

A West End sports club has been pioneering remote coaching sessions during lockdown.

Western tennis club in Hyndland has linked up with around 15 young players in their own homes via the live-streaming phone link WhatsApp.

Back yards, living rooms and hallways are doubling up as makeshift ‘tennis courts’.

WhatsApp interface

Julie, bottom pictured, and another coach take a young player through some exercises in his back yard.

The club has even run a remote training camp over the Easter break.

Senior coach Julie Gordon said lockdown was providing an opportunity to experiment with new ways of teaching.

Around eight coaches have been trained in how to hold the remote tennis sessions.

The Western’s video lessons are themselves being observed by a sports lecturer who is researching coaching behaviour.

‘Amazing’

Julie said: “We create a WhatsApp group for them, and ask them to send a video of their home space and equipment they have available.

“We then arrange a time to call in and come into their home and do the session.”

She said: “Most of the kids have back yards and it is amazing what you can do in a small space.

“Most of them have some kind of equipment, but we are using things like buckets, a racket and a ball.

“You can fill up a plastic bottle and make them into skittles.”

Western Health club

The Western tennis club on Hyndland Road.

Tennis coach Judy Murray has been following the Western experiment.

She commented recently saying what the team is doing is a great idea.

Julie explains that training videos have been all the rage during lockdown.

The club has created many itself for its YouTube channel – see here.

WhatsApp interface

Julie, bottom right, has been using WhatsApp to link up with young players and coaches.

But the live-streaming sessions allow the coaches to interact in real-time.

Players are set exercises and tasks which develop ball and racket skills within the available space.

“We are looking at coach-athlete relationship, and seeing how you can keep the long-distance relationship going online,” said Julie, who is studying for a PhD in sports psychology at Caledonian University.

“I think because we will be like this for some time, we will probably set a trend and other people will pick up on this.

‘We are looking at coach-athlete relationship, and seeing how you can keep the long-distance relationship going online’

Julie Gordon

“It is a free service – the point is about giving back to our community.

“It’s about staying connected and keeping the relationships going with our young people.

‘We are making the children feel cared about and empowering parents to play with their kids.

“It’s the whole family tennis model.”

The Western tennis club has been shortlisted for the Club of the Year in the Tennis Scotland Awards 2019.

‘Impact’

Researcher Jonny Glen at Abertay University in Dundee has been studying the remote sessions.

“Coaching behaviour is really, really important and we are looking at how it can be changed over time.

“I am coding behaviour so we are able to quantify what sorts of behaviours are exhibited and how often.

“We are seeing what impact that can have on athletes.”