Glorious mustard Butterfly Tennis Club sign between two benches on a green tennis court

Butterfly Tennis Club’s bursary offers children free tennis coaching

Camberwell Grove’s Butterfly Tennis Club (BTC) has changed the lives of 40 children in South London by offering free tennis coaching.

Arum Akom, head coach of the BTC, has been developing the club’s bursary programme since joining the team after lockdown through his personal coaching Project AA ‘Accomplish Anything’.

The head coach designs and implements the bursary fund for children in the local community who may be impacted by potential barriers, offering free sessions for children who qualify.

The club works with two primary schools and two secondary schools in Camberwell to identify children for the programme.

Akom said: “We have between 30 to 40 children on the bursary programme sessions where we provide free coaching for schools within our local community.

“If any child receives free school meals or if parents are on Universal Credit, we use that to identify children that might be struggling financially to get free tennis coaching.”

Tennis Court camberwell butterfly tennis club

It costs roughly £15,000 a year to run the Butterfly Tennis Club’s bursary programme, which includes the coaches’ salaries and equipment, etc.

The funding is pulled from a range of places; the club rent out their indoor space, uses fractions of their membership fee, and accepts donations.

With this scheme, children from diverse backgrounds save £50 per month on average while they embark on their tennis journey.

A Yahoo Sports series ‘The Privilege of Play’ emphasised that costs play a large part in the deterioration of young tennis dreams, as underprivileged families may not be able to make the sacrifice.

With BTC and Akom, the opportunity to level out the playing field is growing.

Akom said: “It takes an individual that’s very passionate but also willing to sacrifice to make a difference.

“If I invest in someone now and put in all the time and effort, then good things will come.”

“You get a lot of children from ethnically diverse backgrounds that also come under that category.

Butterfly tennis club court

“We also try to offer opportunities to those children to make the sport more diverse and more inclusive.

“I understand what it takes to run this sort of programme.

“I’m someone that’s been in it as well and needed that support as a young as a young child.”

With Coco Gauff joining the Williams sisters as iconic black tennis figures, it gives young black and brown children a new generation of role models to aspire to be.

Akom also uses the programme to identify which children are naturally gifted or passionate so that he can personally train them.

The head coach has the support of all the children and parents at the club, as they find that he has made a massive difference.

One parent said: “We didn’t have anything like this when I was a kid, now there’s so many opportunities and progression for them to move forward.

“I wish more people took the opportunity to join the programme, Arum is amazing, the kids love him and all the coaches.”

The family put their two children, five and eight, into the tennis club right after the pandemic and have been attending every week for three years.

Other families in Camberwell have joined the Butterfly Tennis Club after seeing the offer in the school newsletter.

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