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Meet the Scottish tennis prodigy juggling studies with coaching in parks

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“Earlier this year I delivered Prime Video LTA Youth Girls sessions at four local clubs, and it was really rewarding to coach 70 girls playing tennis for the very first time,” said Smart before adding, “I’m doing something similar in terms of sessions I’m running at Dollar Park.

“Coaching is funny because one moment you might feel like players perhaps aren’t improving and you start to question your own methods, then something clicks in the players and suddenly you have five-year-olds playing tennis matches against each other! It’s great to play a part in making that happen.”

Juggling time between University in Edinburgh and at home in Falkirk, Smart provided an insight into what an average week looks like:

“On Monday’s I’m coaching nursery school pupils in the day, and the Inchyra Tennis Club girls in the evening. Tuesday I’m in Edinburgh doing junior and adult coaching. On Wednesday I focus on my studies alongside 1-1 coaching. On Thursday I’ve got classes before hightailing it for girls and ladies coaching at Dollar Park. Fridays are based at Mortonhall in Edinburgh and on Saturday and Sunday I do junior coaching at Linlithgow and Inchyra in the Falkirk area, as well as coach some of the 30 individual clients I currently support.”

It’s a full-on schedule that reflects a clear ambition to develop her life as a self-starter.

“Unsurprisingly for someone studying business I’d really like to build a company and it may well be in tennis. I’d really like to be a head coach, running my own tennis programme and building that from the ground up. Olivia Smart Tennis Coaching is just six months old and it’s doing well, so let’s see. My mum runs a wedding dress shop, so maybe she’d let me get involved in that – hah! It’s great to have her expertise to draw upon.”

For now Smart’s is the story of a young coach juggling one (tennis) ball at a time and the sense of fulfilment of getting people active through tennis and the positive impact that has on the tennis ecosystem in her area.

“Tennis clubs are modelled on membership, but to play on a park people can just book and come along, so you often get to work with people who are new to the game. I’m now seeing the kids from Prime Video LTA Youth Girls and a 5–8-year-old development squad rocking up to the local tennis club’s I coach and play at.

“Park tennis allows kids and adults to develop a love for tennis before committing to a club. I’ve seen a number of girls and ladies now start playing in parks, move to clubs and begin competing in local leagues and team tennis.

“The conversion rate from park to club is great and it’s lovely to play a part in that!”

Parks Tennis Project

Through the Park Tennis Project, we are delivering a £30million UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation investment to transform thousands of park tennis courts across Britain.

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