The International Tennis Federation (ITF) used the inaugural Worldwide Participation Conference to issue a call to action as the much-anticipated event at Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge stadium in London concluded yesterday.
Close to 200 delegates from 55 nations participated in an interactive forum centred around discussions on growing participation in sport and increasing physical activity across the globe.
A total of 28 presentations were heard during 11 sessions as attendees shared best practices and identified projects which have proven successful in boosting participation and retention rates in sport.
Following an opening address from ITF Chief Operating Officer Kelly Fairweather on Sunday, the conference heard discussions on utilising data and measuring insight in sports participation as well as the benefits of physical activity.
Focus then switched to strategies for attracting more women to engage in sport and then how widening access to physical activity can combat and eliminate social barriers.
The discussion moved to the use of technology and data in driving participation figures before former Great Britain Fed Cup captain Judy Murray used her unique insight to provide a rousing conclusion to day one.
There was a distinct feeling on the conference’s opening day that the sporting world was pooling its knowledge base as a range of disciplines offered their expert understanding of the topics discussed.
The International Olympic Committee, World Rugby, International Table Tennis Federation, Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, Sport England and Special Olympics were just some of the organisations to present their findings and observations, while others, like International Golf, were also in attendance.
If day one was a sporting collaboration, Monday’s closing section of the conference was very much tennis-specific with a range of case studies heard from national associations worldwide.
While the most productive ways to escalate participation was the underlying theme, the success stories and indeed challenges of such initiatives were given an international flavour.
The conference heard how the member national associations from Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Tunisia and the United States are tackling the need to increase participation and their aims, ambitions and goals for the future.
ITF chief operating officer Kelly Fairweather said: “The inaugural Worldwide Participation Conference was a real opportunity to push the ITF2024 strategy. Development and participation is a principal strand of that and one of our eight key priorities. Getting nearly 200 people from federations and other sports together and setting an agenda was the goal and we achieved that. As the governing body and the guardian of tennis, the ITF’s fundamental role is to drive this agenda and work with our national associations, regional associations and the industry to achieve its aims.”
Luca Santilli, ITF Executive Director for Development, added: “I have spoken with many of the delegates here over the two days of the conference and I have only received positive remarks – it was the International Tennis Federation at its best. Increasing participation is the core objective of the ITF’s 2017-2020 development strategy and it was important to send a strong signal to our stakeholders that the ITF is proactive, inclusive, committed and determined to make a big impact.”