About the WJTI
The WJTI began in 2001 and is a community tennis initiative run by The All England Club in partnership with Merton and Wandsworth. In total Dan Bloxham and his team of coaches have visited over 500 schools and given more than 125,000 kids their first experience of tennis.
Each week one school in Merton and one in Wandsworth receive a full day of coaching from Dan and his team for every pupil in the school from Nursery upwards. The WJTI has worked in all schools from Nursery and Primary through to Special Needs and Secondary. The children are not the only ones to benefit from Dan’s enthusiastic coaching. The teachers are shown how to deliver sport in school and what the standards should be for each age group. They are also invited back to the All England Club each year for a teachers evening where they can increase their skills and knowledge as well as hit a few balls.
After each visit up to six of the most promising kids from the school are invited back to receive free tennis at Wimbledon every weekend until they reach sixteen years of age. For those not selected the school receives information on tennis coaching and clubs locally as it is not possible to have every child back to the Club at weekends. During the course of a weekend up to 300 kids will play tennis with Dan and the team. As the Initiative has progressed the kids who first started playing with the WJTI have offered their help with the younger players and the eldest are now taking coaching exams and are looking to a career in tennis.
The players who shine the brightest at weekends are invited to be a WJTI Squad Player. The squad players’ train twice a week in a more focused environment and compete regularly within their age groups. There are currently 40 squad players ranging from 5 to 18 years of age. Every player in the squads has won an event in their age group in Surrey. Above this level is the Performance strand who play in the squads and also receive additional training.
WJTI has produced county, regional, national and even international standard players. All the players began after meeting Dan in their school playground and have progressed through the weekend training and squads to benefit from individual programmes. These players enjoy strength and conditioning sessions, mental skills sessions and tournament planning in addition to the oncourt work. The All England Club is now an LTA Performance Centre and achieved Club Mark status, placing it as one of the UK’s leading clubs in January 2009. There are players competing at all levels from Mini Red to international and all are meeting new friends and enjoying new experiences along the way.
The Initiative hopes to offer more children the chance to experience tennis, to promote a healthy lifestyle and to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to deliver an exciting and productive school sports lesson. Through his work with the WJTI Dan Bloxham has been invited to speak at Westminster on Community Sport and at The House of Commons Select Committee for Sport on the experiences he has had delivering sport in schools and the improvements to be made. Dan has recently completed a series of DVD’s with the Tennis Foundation for teachers in primary schools to deliver quality tennis sessions. This is one way of spreading the energy Dan brings to his coaching and inspiring others throughout the UK.
Dan and the Squad players “perform” each year on Court 14 on the Middle Saturday and Men’s Finals Day at Wimbledon for the crowds and have also appeared in a book entitled Tennis School. However, this year the Club had a special visitor and some of the WJTI Squad players performed for her and got the chance to meet her during the Championships on Court 14. This was a very proud moment for the WJTI.
The Initiative is taking on each level of tennis and succeeding from playground to performance as a result of the quality and hard work put in by all involved with the WJTI. It is a model of how sport can benefit a community and improve the lifestyles of everyone involved.