Junior padel going strong in Derby
As the world’s fastest-growing sport continues to gain attention, one area that has perhaps gone unnoticed in padel’s trajectory is the development of children and young people’s involvement in the sport. Ben Nichols reports.
There’s been plenty of discussion about the skills required for padel, the game’s addictive appeal for adults, the clubs and facilities being launched and the issues faced to get to launch (including planning permission). However, as any sport knows, there is a challenge to ensure the game appeals to younger generations – the generations that will drive the sport’s success in the decades to come.
Padel will boom only if children and young people are brought into the game and exposed to its fun, dynamic, inclusive credentials, the likes of which tennis and other racket sports struggle to offer. Padel has a real trump card that other sports arguably don’t: it can get young people on court, in an inclusive environment, hitting the ball sooner than they would otherwise be able to do in other ball sports, and with the energetic, fast-moving, quick-fire feel that is unique to padel. These aspects of the game have the potential to be hugely appealing to children of all ages and that’s why the work We Are Padel is doing at its 11-court facility in Derby is catching the eye.
The We Are Padel facility, which launched last year as the company’s first UK club and the UK’s largest club full stop, has focussed heavily on developing junior padel. Club leadership team – Dutch duo Rosco Muller and Leander van der Vaart – launched a free children’s padel programme in November and since then have welcome more than 700 children through its doors.
In fact, the irony’s not lost on them that We Are Padel Derby sits opposite Derby County Football Club’s Pride Park Stadium. Football is the sport of choice for many in the East Midlands, and it’s children who until now have often purely played football that Rosco, Leander and their team have been working hard to attract into the padel programme on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays, as We Are Padel Derby’s Josh Scales explained:
“When we began our kids’ padel programme we were well aware that we were pitching it to an unsuspecting population of football, cricket and other mainstream sports’ enthusiasts. The question ‘what is padel?’ would come up time and time again. However, in a short space of time we’ve really made inroads within the community, getting kids to pick up a padel racket when they’ve only previously played football. We want to create a shift with this sport and we’re excited to run a free programme that will, over time I believe, create this shift.
“In a matter of weeks, we’ve been able to get parents across Derby and the East Midlands talking about padel in a way that other racket sports haven’t been able to. I think the key thing we’ve been able to offer kids, other than a fun, engaging sport, is the fact that they don’t need to show up with a certain dress code, or certain etiquette like some of the traditional sports. They can show up with enthusiasm, energy and a smile on their faces and have a go on court. At We Are Padel, we’re all about a local approach, and we’re looking forward to continuing to grow what we believe is the UK’s number one children’s padel programme to get the sport to even more young people in this sport-mad region,” added Josh.