TINY tennis players are making a racket in venues across Leeds and North Yorkshire.
A 100-strong team of tots is currently being coached in basic sporting skills - and also learning about numbers, colours, shapes and letters in the process.
The Tennis Tots programme was originally created in 2008 by former tennis professional Matt McTurk and, aside from sporting prowess, it offers children the chance to learn alongside their parents in line with the Early Years curriculum.
Harrogate-based Matt, who once played for the Yorkshire tennis team, said:"We are the only pre-school tennis organisation in the UK specialising in this age group and offering this type of programme. As well as developing the tennis fundamentals, Tennis Tots also incorporates counting games to develop numeracy skills, uses different coloured equipment to improve colour recognition and general hand eye coordination development as well as other skills.
"Our aim is also to build each child's self confidence whilst providing a fun, friendly environment for them to learn alongside their parents.
"We have seen two and three-year-olds swing a racket and connect with the ball with good timing and technique.
"When the children experience the immediate success of hitting a ball over a net, it brings a smile to their faces and the parents and coaches too."
Tennis Tots groups are already up and running in Horsforth and Alwoodley with more planned in Roundhay, Headingley and Ilkley in the New Year. The sessions last around 45 minutes and are 5 a time with special deals for those who sign up to the seven-week programme. Free trials are also on offer.
Stage One of the course aims to improve balance, agility and co-ordination whilst helping to build each child's self confidence.
Specially designed rackets and balls are used to introduce youngsters to striking and receiving skills and at the end of each session the Tennis Tots are rewarded with stickers and given practice tasks to improve their skills at home with mum or dad. Stage Two introduces more complex racket skills helping children become more familiar with how to control the ball.
Children also further develop their striking and receiving skills as well as being encouraged to work in pairs and as part of a team.
The aim is also for children to progress their counting and language skills as they develop more independence and get more comfortable listening to specific instuctions.
All Tennis tots classes are taken by CRB checked coaches who undergo regular training with sessions currently running in St James Parish Centre, Horsforth, Alwoodley Community Hall and Kidzplay, Harrogate.
More information on courses is now available at www.tennis-tots.co.uk
A healthy report
Staff and students at Allerton Grange School in Moortown are celebrating after being awarded National Healthy Schools Status by Education Leeds.
The Healthy Schools and Wellbeing Programme praised the school's "clean and spacious" environment and the curriculum's effectiveness in delivering key messages around staying fit and healthy.
The availability of multiple meals and healthy lunchtime choices was another factor.
Kirsty Myers, for Allerton Grange, said:"We are delighted to receive this award."
Students to ensure event is just 'capital'
STUDENTS from Leeds Metropolitan University are ensuring that New Year celebrations in London go according to plan.
A 16-strong team of Events Management undergraduates will tomorrow night be in the capital counting down the hours to 2011 as they take centre-stage at what is now one of the UK's largest public displays of pyrotechnics.
Over 250,000 spectators are expected to see the fireworks being launched off the 135-metre London Eye as the capital lets in 2011.
For the third year running, the UK Centre for Events Management at LMU arranged for 16 first-year students to work as Event Information Officers at the extravaganza which will also be watched live on TV by around 10 million people.
The students will be wrapping up warm and distributing information leaflets .They will then be assigned to information points where they will assist attendees.
Leeds Met students have been employed at the event since 2008 as a result of a partnership between Simon Bell, course leader of the Managing Cultural and Major Events course at LMU and Events For London chief Patrick Loy, a frequent guest lecturer at the University.
Simon Bell said: "This is always a fantastic opportunity for our students to get some great experience which will serve as an excellent start to the work-based learning and industry placement in their second year."
Patrick Loy added: "Leeds Met students will distribute 120,000 maps and offer an invaluable information service for people. As a friendly face for the event, the students also provide organisers with essential feedback from members of the public, which feeds into planning for future years."
The students will work alongside London's Show and Event Security team, BBC Radio One and the Metropolitan Police.