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The Earl of Wessex plays tennis with Tim Henman and Johanna Konta

The Earl of Wessex paid a visit to the Royal Tennis Courts at Hampton Court Palace yesterday to meet youth involved in a year-long programme of Real Tennis events supporting the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

The Earl, who is Chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, met students from local schools taking part in a Real tennis masterclass before making a quick change and joining in a skill session. He also played several matches with the Royal Tennis Court Junior Team and was joined for the last match of the day by Johanna Konta and Tim Henman. The Earl has been playing Real Tennis for more than 30 years and started the sport whilst working towards achieving his own Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (or ‘DofE’) is a youth awards programme which was founded by Prince Philip in 1956 to recognise adolescents and young adults for completing a series of exercises meant to challenge and support self-improvement for all involved. The programme was started in the UK but has since expanded to 144 nations which operate under the coordination of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation.

DofE Award programmes take one to four years to complete and must be finished before the participant’s 25th birthday. Around 300,000 youth participate every year and the award programmes operate at three progressive levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Participants select and set objectives in the areas of ‘volunteering’, ‘skills’, ‘expedition’, ‘physical’ and, for those at Gold level, ‘residential’, which involves a shared activity covering the span of five days away from home.

The hope is that successful participants who achieve their Awards will go on to continue building upon the skills they gain during the programme and that future generations of participants will get to experience the life-changing benefits of the DofE programme.

Hundreds of years old, Real Tennis is considered the original form of modern tennis (also known as Lawn Tennis) and it is played with a solid ball on an enclosed court with irregularly sized walls divided into equal but dissimilar halves – the ‘service’ side and the ‘hazard’ side.

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