Andy and Jamie Murray are two of the best tennis players in the world. You might think that they learned the game on a perfect court at some fancy facility. But you’d be wrong.
When they were toddlers growing up in Scotland, their mother, Judy, introduced them to tennis in a creative way. Instead of taking lessons at a club, the Murrays learned the game in their home. They used cereal boxes and cans of beans for nets, and a Ping-Pong ball instead of a tennis ball.
The unconventional introduction to the sport was clearly successful. Andy has won the US Open and Wimbledon championships, and Jamie is an accomplished doubles player.
The takeaway from the Murrays’ story is that you don’t need lessons or expensive gear to learn the sport. It’s a message Judy tries to share through her work with tennis programs in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Today, she is participating in the United States Tennis Association’s World Tennis Day celebration at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The event will feature an exhibition match between Andy Murray and top-ranked Novak Djokovic, as well as host a doubles match between elite doubles players Bob and Mike Bryan and tennis legends John and Patrick McEnroe.
On Sunday, Judy also helped lead a group of 406 young local tennis players who set the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest tennis lesson at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.
"We have to make our sport fun, accessible and affordable," Judy Murray said of tennis. "Often our sport has been targeted as more aimed at people who have money or come from more privileged backgrounds. We’re definitely trying to change that perception and make it more open and accessible to everybody to come and try it."
She told Sports Illustrated Kids that the availability of local tennis courts in the U.S. is higher than what is available to British youth. And kids who want to learn the sport have a great example in the Williams sisters. While growing up, Venus and Serena played on public courts in Compton, California, and have since gone on to become all-time greats.
The USTA gives kids a chance to play at facilities around the nation with smaller courts so they can learn the game at their own pace. The organization hopes that its efforts to make the sport more accessible to all kids will help get the next set of Williams sisters noticed.
But even if you don’t have a tennis court nearby, Judy knows from experience how to bring the came into your home. You can use chalk to draw out a court on your driveway, and tie a rope to some chairs to create a net. Like the Murrays, you can also use household appliances to play indoor tennis.
"It’s about using your imagination and looking at what’s around you, and trying to create as closely as you can what you see on the TV," Murray says.
She also stresses the importance of parents and kids playing together. So the next time you and your family want to spend some time together, try out one of her creative ways to play the game. You may not even have to leave your house!
Visit youthtennis.com to find a tennis facility near you.
Photos courtesy USTA