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Educating stuff: Chasing tails?

Around the grounds in 2012
by Ben Swann
Tuesday 28 May 2013

The latest 'Educating stuff,' news and views from Wimbledon's Education Department, asks its primary visitors what they would change at Wimbledon...

With the announcement  of the ‘Master Plan’ and that Wimbledon is about to embark on yet another journey into the realms of self improvement, the question on the lips of all the recent visitors to the Education Department has been - ‘What is wrong with the Wimbledon we see now?’

May is predominantly the merry month of Primary visitors and the wonderful thing about Primary students is that they say what they see and what a Primary student sees at Wimbledon is very different to what an adult sees – ‘That’s not grass, that’s Astroturf!’  ‘Tennis players grunt like farm animals, my mum says so’.   ‘The reason tennis players don’t eat sweets when they are on court is that then their teeth would rot and that would scare the other tennis players when they smiled and that would be cheating and cheating is bad’.

When I told a recent tour about the major changes about to take place in No.1 Court the expected reaction of quiet awe and respect such an announcement would normally produce was glaringly absent.  What I got in its place was a torrent of exclamations on the wastefulness of replacing 11,500 seats with some that are a little more comfortable and more in keeping with a world-beating tennis tournament.

‘What is wrong with a cushion?’ came one cry. ‘Will the old seats be recycled?’ voiced another.  The general consensus seemed to be that Wimbledon should ‘make do and mend’ what it already had and that with the addition of a little purple and green chintzy fabric and a bit of cotton wool we could transform No.1 Court from a rather tired old tennis stadium into a more homely, welcoming environment, for a fraction of the cost. 

All well and good I said, but what about the French? We all know that within a few years Roland Garros will have refreshed itself into a modern, stylish and enviably great tennis venue with facilities to match the expectations of the public and the players, expectations that go hand in hand with being one of the world’s most historic and iconic sporting venues.  ‘Wimbledon must not fall behind the French’, I found myself saying out loud as if the EU had never existed.  This was met with the derisive laughter that such an outlandish comment deserves, but amongst all the laughter a small boy stood up from his old, plastic seat, standing like a speaker in the house would do to draw attention to himself, and drawing himself to his full height of about 4 feet exclaimed seriously, ‘What if Roland Garros were to walk off a cliff? Would Wimbledon do that too?’

Perhaps my young friend was right; perhaps all this chasing of tails that the Grand Slam tennis tournaments do year on year is not needed.  Maybe they all need to just ‘make do and mend’. 

So an alternative ‘Master Plan’ as outlined by a focus group of 5 – 11 year olds.  No.1 Court will have nice, hand crafted chintz or gingham covers on the seats, the roof can stay as it is, the players can use waterproofs.  Everything else will stay the same.

Whilst this definitely won’t be Wimbledon’s immediate future, those children are the future so maybe tennis in 15 years time will be a very different place indeed.

Are you a teacher who likes listening to the opinions of Primary students? Then you want to book one of our Primary workshops or tours.

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