GB Tennis Girls is a volunteer-run, not for profit organisation that lobbies on behalf of Britain’s tennis girls and women, fundraises money for individuals and schemes, and does everything in its power to encourage and retain females in tennis.
GB Tennis Girls started out life as the Women’s Player Committee (WPC) in 1999. Created by a group of the highest ranked British female players, the committee set out to establish a dialogue with the LTA with the aim of improving playing conditions and support for British women. Nine months later, they launched the GB Tennis Girls website, which contained the first British open-forum message board on the internet for tennis. Gradually, the WPC morphed into GBTG with broader aims that stretched beyond the scope of players looking after their own interests to the focus on improving the playing experience for generations to come.
GBTG received contributions from many players, but long-standing crusaders Helen Crook, Victoria Davies, Jo Ward, and Lorna Woodroffe all share a passion for tennis that kept things going throughout the years. Each achieved a world ranking that placed them at the top of the British game, which meant that they lived first-hand the highs and lows of being British tennis players. This best placed them to campaign against all the obstacles and inequalities that they and their peers were experiencing in their careers.
One after another Jo, Lorna, Victoria and Helen retired from competition and moved on to pursue other careers, but the passion for women’s tennis and equality never abated.
GBTG had become too important a voice in British tennis to just disappear, so the team continued to raise funds and create much-needed initiatives to provide support where it was needed, even getting tennis legend Martina Navratilova involved. Fundraising efforts included several Wimbledon Balls, which featured celebrity guests and speakers, and Golf Days that had the uncanny knack of picking the windiest, rainiest days each summer! The money raised was distributed to worthy schemes and individual players, always for the improvement of British women’s tennis.
The team has also continued to campaign for equality in funding and support for girls, which has remained unequal in many areas since long before the inception of the WPC or GB Tennis Girls. Lorna and Jo had moved into coaching, and it was astonishing to witness the levels of disparity in funding and support between boys and girls as young as ten years old. GBTG lobbied, mostly successfully, for these inequities to be rectified, and continues to raise awareness whenever the female playing experience falls short of equal.
GB Tennis Girls still runs as a lobbying body, driven by passionate volunteers, with the aim of equalising and improving the state of women’s tennis in Great Britain. This includes: improving the playing conditions and experiences of those girls and women already playing by achieving parity with boys’ and men’s experiences; highlighting the many benefits of tennis, like increased self-esteem; and raising awareness about potential career opportunities.
However, very importantly, a major focus is also addressing issues surrounding low participation and high drop-out rates in women’s and girls’ tennis. British tennis needs more females playing, more females competing, more females coaching, and all females experiencing enjoyable and equal opportunities with boys and men. Only by achieving these goals will British women’s tennis ever reach its potential.
The founding four have all earned a living on the pro-circuit, competed at Wimbledon and are all former British No.1s and No.2s. Between them they have represented Britain in the Olympics, Federation Cup, European Cup, Maureen Connolly Cup as well as representing Wales and England in Internationals. With over 100 professional titles collectively, coupled with a sense of underachievement, they are in a great position to improve the experience of the British female tennis player.