Designed to introduce young children to the sport, Teddy Tennis has found success both in the UK and abroad.
The brainchild of Richard Bean, Teddy Tennis started out in west London 12 years ago and now boasts franchises in the USA, China, Australia and South Africa.
Combining music, pictures, characters and stories, the programme is designed to encourage children aged two-and-a-half to six years to play tennis.
“The aim of Teddy Tennis is sport, music and fun for the very young,” explains Bean. “But of course it’s also a feeder stream for the Mini Reds tennis and talent scouting because many of the great players started fiddling around with a tennis racket from an early age.
“The Bryan brothers started at 1½, Martina Hingis was three. Andre Agassi had tennis balls floating over his cot. Andrea Pineda, who is the No.1 Under-10 tennis player in the country, started with us at the age of three (right) and her mum says she wouldn’t be where she is now if it wasn’t for Teddy Tennis.”
Teddy Tennis is a meeting of Bean’s two passions – music and tennis. He writes all the songs for the programme – of which there are over 60 tracks on iTunes. Two CDs –‘It’s Teddy Tennis Time’ and ‘Red Paw Rhythms’ are available to buy on the Teddy Tennis website.
“I love tennis but my biggest passion was writing songs,” explains Bean. “I was trying to make it in the music business in the 80s and 90s and I did tennis coaching to make a living.
“I was coaching a little boy called Daniel when the idea of Teddy Tennis came to me. The main character in Teddy Tennis is called Danny Bear. We got together with an illustrator called Catherine Peacock and spent a lot of time dreaming up the characters. We wrote a storybook as well.
“There’s Molly, who loves to volley and Amanda Panda with the great backhander. We’ve got some famous bears like Boris who is ginger. I’d also like to create an Andy Bear because I think Murray has done such a fantastic job.”
As well as teaching basic tennis skills and instilling a love of the sport, the programme is designed to improve language and communication skills as well as building confidence and self-esteem.
“With Teddy Tennis we start our lessons with an introduction and then we show them pictures of what we want them to do,” says Bean. “If they are going to play bounce and catch, there’s a picture of Boris Bear bouncing and catching the ball. There’s a song, ‘Boris Loves To Bounce’ and the kids learn the songs which teach them what to do.”
After starting out in nurseries and clubs around west London, Teddy Tennis is now franchised in top clubs and hotels worldwide. Gordon Uehling, a former ATP professional who runs Court Sense tennis training centres in New Jersey and acts as a consultant to Novak Djokovic, owns the biggest franchise in the USA. There are also franchises as far afield as Shanghai, Cairo, Melbourne, Cape Town and Bogota.
“What I do is train the coaches,” explains Bean. “We’re also in a luxury resort in the Maldives and Mauritius called Lux that offers Teddy Tennis for free while the parents can take it easy.
“Next month I’m going to Saudi Arabia and Dubai to start off Teddy Tennis over there. What they’re trying to do is promote sport for girls – 68% of our kids are girls so we’re inspiring girls to play tennis. Next year I’m going to Monte Carlo to set Teddy Tennis up there.”
Richard and his brother Stephen appeared on Dragons Den in 2007 and did not receive investment despite interest from both Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones, both of whom were tennis coaches.
“Duncan Bannatyne said this idea is great if you do it, but no-one else will do it. We’re now in 18 countries and we’ve just gone into China, where it is going well because of Li Na,” says Bean. “I guess you could say he was wrong.”
For more information visit www.teddytennis.com or call Richard Bean on 07973 284 785.