By Paul English
JUDY MURRAY has called for separate PE lessons for boys and girls to help more females fulfil their potential.
Ms Murray, the former captain of the British Federation Cup team, believes more “girl-only” activities will improve the uptake of sport among young females.
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The mother of world number one tennis player Andy Murray was speaking ahead of the Scottish launch of her female-focussed coaching initiative, She Rallies, taking place in Renfrewshire today (**Thursday**).
It comes after the LTA, tennis’s national governing body, reported an annual decline of 14 per cent in female uptake of the sport, at a time when its profile in Britain has never been higher.
With Andy Murray topping the sports rankings, the women’s game received a huge boost on Saturday when the Fed Cup team reached the world group stage for the first time in 24 years.
The British game’s leading female coach has urged changes at grassroots level in a bid to capitalise on such success.
She said: “We need to have more girl-only activity, because girls are often intimidated and put off by boys, especially as they get older.
“Boys can be a real barrier to the enjoyment of girls taking part in physical activity, because of the way girls feel in front of boys at certain times in their lives. Boys will want to kick the ball too hard, or be deter- mined to beat them all the time, and that’s off-putting for girls.”
“The head of PE was a woman and so was the assistant head. They had single-sex PE and that made a significant difference in terms or the attraction and retention of girls through the schools sports clubs and team participation,” she said.
“The number of girl sports leaders who were considering going to college to become PE teachers was absolutely huge and this was recognised by the people running the department.
“Although it was logistically a nightmare in terms of organising the curriculum, it was a huge success in terms of attracting and retaining girls and their enjoyment of sport.”
Last year saw a £300,000 scheme introduced to boost young females’ engagement in sport.
The Sporting Equality Fund was established in an attempt to close the gender gap evident during teenage years, where 71 per cent of boys say they are active in sport compared with 51 per cent of girls, according to SportScotland.
Ms Murray launched the She Rallies drive in conjunction with the sport’s governing body the Lawn Tennis Association in Birmingham last week.
Its aims is to “grow the female tennis workforce”, led by three newly-appointed female ambassadors Fiona Bennie, Shona Ross and Karen Lamb, Today’s event, organised by Tennis Scotland at the David Lloyd club in Renfrew, will see leading Australian coach Emma Doyle of Tennis Australia lead a free workshop for coaches of both sexes, including a focus on how to help male coaches work more effectively with girls.
Ms Murray said: “We want to drive up the numbers for participation of women in tennis, but also to drive women into tennis coaching and delivery.
“We are experiencing a real dip in the number of women playing the game, down 14 per cent on the previous period of research, the LTA has shown.”