Scots tennis supremo and erstwhile Strictly star Judy Murray visited the Borders last week as part of her Tennis on the Road programme.
Designed to give local coaches an insight into the training routines that so successfully caught the continued attention of Judy’s sons, Andy and Jamie, the roadshow rolled into Galashiels on Thursday and Peebles the following day.
Anyone expecting to see the rather stiff, awkward Judy shown on the popular dancing show were pleasantly surprised, as when she is in her element – on a tennis court with a racquet in hand and eager youngsters hanging on her every word – this is a Judy that is smiling, engaging, highly-knowledgable and personable.
The sessions were a massive hit for all the coaches involved – who all brought along some of their young stars to take part.
Jennifer Mole, who coaches at Coldstream’s Lennel club, had her two daughters with her.
She said: “It is fabulous. Judy is really engaging ... she has lots of great tips in how to engage kids.
“It’s not all about having a tennis racquet in your hand, it’s about motor skills and teamwork.
“The teams are set up with pupils of different qualities and abilities, so they are all working together as a team.”
And Earlston coach Ally McCulloch told us: “It’s phenomenal!
“It really gives coaches a really solid insight into the simplicity and also the complexity of the game, and how to go about teaching the basic skills in a fun environment.
“There are a lot of young coaches here who will go back to their clubs, schools and programmes, and work with kids in their local areas on all of the things they have done today ... and more.”
Judy, who takes her white van filled with equipment on the road with fellow coach Kris Soutar to more rural areas of Scotland, said the programme was all about building up a “workforce of coaches” to places where the sport has limited activity.
At the session in Galashiels, she said: “We do this by targeting parents, teachers, students, fifth and sixth-form pupils and volunteers – anybody, really, who can be a Pied Piper of tennis, who can go on to deliver a fun start to tennis for beginners.
“The children who took part in the sessions were really, really good.
“It’s been really windy and a bit chilly today, but you would never would have realised because they were occupied and engaged the whole time.
“What we are trying to show them is that they can do a lot of these things at home to develop their racquet handling and ball control skills ... they don’t have to be done on a tennis court.
“Tennis is complex, it’s a difficult sport to learn, but if you can master these skills first, then it becomes much easier to do.”
Judy taught sons, Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy and doubles specialist Jamie, these same skills as children, to give them something to do, as much as building up their hand-eye co-ordination and mobility.
She said: “When my kids were young, I was always looking for ways to tire them out.
“Our weather is so bad up here that many of the things we developed were things we could do in the house or the garden.
“And they developed really good hand-eye and foot-eye co-ordination, so it wouldn’t have mattered what sport they wanted to try when they got older, they would have been able to do it quite competently.
“But nowadays, so many kids are uncoordinated or less coordinated, simply because they don’t play as actively as kids used to ... they don’t walk or run or cycle as much ... and the things that are trendy to play with are things that require you to be sitting down.
“So even simple things like throwing and catching a ball, and moving to and from a bouncing ball, which are fundamental to a sport such as tennis, you need to teach these skills first before you can put a racquet in their hand and help them to get the ball over the net.”