GB’s talented juniors rock inaugural training camp

The future of GB youth padel is ‘very, very bright’, with 2024 set to be an exciting year for young players with their sights set on playing the game at the highest level possible.

That’s the view of Matt Stanforth, LTA Padel Performance Manager, after the very first GB junior performance camp at We Are Padel, Derby, over the weekend. 

For the first time promising players from around the country were brought together for assessment and training, with Matt praising their commitment, attitude and skill: “Overall we were really impressed. It was a higher level than we’d anticipated but what really impressed us was the level of engagement from the players, it was fantastic. The future is very, very bright from what we saw.”

Forty young players aged between nine and 18 years were invited to attend the camp having been identified via padel clubs. Saturday saw the 14 years and under group take to the courts and Sunday was dedicated to the 15s and over. Lead coaches were Libby Fletcher (GB Women’s squad co-coach) and Steve Yeardley, with former British No 1 Frankie Langan assisting. 

A focus of the weekend was, as Matt explained, to gain ‘key insights’ into each of the players and a picture of their skill levels, with drills, a point scoring focus and matchplay sessions. The LTA plans to hold another weekend in the new year for players unable to make Derby and from there select a training group of young talent to nurture via a series of national training camps.

Turning point

The camp marked a huge step forward in developing a performance pathway for GB juniors, which Matt has acknowledge is much needed. He joined the LTA a year ago from elite table tennis and was initially focussed on the men’s and women’s national squads. That focus is now encompassing the youth padel landscape and putting in place formal processes to sow the seeds of what will likely become the fledgling GB junior squad.

“The pathway side of things is a real passion of mine,” Matt told The Bandeja. “And it has always been the intention to have a youth structure, it’s an integral piece of the overall pathway.”

With the competition offering for young players still in its infancy, Matt is hopeful that developing a young player programme will drive demand for more tournaments, which will in turn grow junior numbers. He’s also hopeful of enlisting assistance from the senior squads, with them acting as role models for their younger peers.

One area that he’s keen to address is encouraging more girls into the sport; of the 40 youngsters attending the Derby camp just nine were girls. To this end the LTA is discussing putting GB women players through their coaching qualification to act as role models and ensure that each youth training camp has a female ambassador attending. 

It’s perhaps a little early to be talking about sending a junior GB squad to international competitions but Matt has plans to link with padel federations abroad to broaden the experience of the young players. 🎾