Tim Henman fears masks are damaging for children

Former British tennis star worries that life in lockdown has harmed participation in sports

Tim Henman's foundation helps vulnerable children. Getty
Tim Henman's foundation helps vulnerable children. Getty

Former tennis star Tim Henman is sceptical of a reliance on face masks and lockdowns to fight coronavirus and is worried about the damage caused to children by restrictions on sports and social activities.

The one-time Wimbledon favourite, who runs the Tim Henman Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of vulnerable children, questions the use of masks and lockdowns because of the limits they impose on participation in sports for fun.

He first publicly questioned the UK government’s policies last month when he was a signatory on a letter demanding the publication of evidence to support wearing masks in classrooms.

Now he is criticising lockdowns for the harm they do to sports, while praising vaccines as a way of helping elite sports to return.

"As for the masks, I am no expert but I think it’s very hard for the young to have their masks on and be learning and communicating. I am not sure the science supports it,” Henman said.

Tim Henman playing in the Men's Singles at Wimbledon, where this year players will live in bubbles and crowd capacity will be limited. Getty Images/file
Tim Henman playing in the Men's Singles at Wimbledon, where this year players will live in bubbles and crowd capacity will be limited. Getty Images/file

"The whole situation is very sad, and it’s going to cause a lot of damage to people’s mental health. There are going to be more and more children needing support going forward. I certainly feel concerned for the next generation."

On lockdowns, he said: "Again, I am no expert, but I don’t necessarily think that they have worked.

“Look at other countries, and states like Florida, they have had absolutely no lockdown and they seem to be in the same position as us."

Henman is focused on his foundation as a way of getting children into sports, which he says is good for their mental and physical health.

"I’ve been running a foundation for the last six years that works with children and the need has never been greater," Henman said.

"My daughters are 18, 16 and 13. They’re lucky that they have been able to get on with online learning and are old enough to keep in touch with their friends on the phone or on Zoom or whatever.

"But others haven’t had the necessary IT equipment, they’ve not had the social interaction, they’re living in inner cities where it’s hard to find outdoor space.”

He said playing an array of sports as a child put him on the road to tennis stardom.

"I was so lucky to have all those opportunities. But then you look at the physical activities made available to children in schools. I’d like to double the amount of sport played in a week from two to four hours.

"I believe that has a huge benefit mentally, physically and socially. The more physical exercise, the more kids can be outside, getting fresh air, interacting and staying off their devices."

He is also looking at vaccines as a way of securing the return of sports, including Wimbledon, which this year will have reduced capacity and players living in bubbles.

"It’s not something that Wimbledon want to do. It’s something they have to do. Players are very lucky to have these playing opportunities," he said.

Henman said he is booked in to have a Covid-19 vaccination soon.

Updated: May 5, 2021 04:50 PM

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