Trying to maximise Murray Mania effect
As this year's Wimbledon Championship takes its place in the history books with Andy Murray having achieved a second men's singles title, the next challenge is for grassroots tennis to take advantage.
The question is, how does encouraging general participation in tennis transfer from SW19 (the All England Club that hosts Wimbledon) to S40 4TW – the home of Chesterfield’s premier club and indoor tennis centre?
The answer would seem to be with a lot of local success as Chesterfield Lawn Tennis Club is going from strength to strength.
Chesterfield Ladies A team, for example, has just pipped teams from Fulwood and Hallamshire to the Sheffield and District League title. Team members were Heather Staton, Mary Langen, Harriet Head, Alex Calder, Amy Harris. Anne Brown, Liz Newell, Tori Head, Elena Chiu, Liz Roberts, Jackie Gardner, Danielle Jackson, Helen Parker. Sue Parker, Sue Perryman and Olivia Nelms.
The club’s chairman, Andrew Parker, said: “We are extremely proud of our ladies’ team and I would like to congratulate all our members that played in the team.
“I would also like to thank Tori Head, the ladies’ captain, and all our team captains. Without volunteers these successes would not be possible.”
Further evidence of Chesterfield’s popularity came at this year’s open day at the start of July, which attracted 30 new members. The open day offered free coaching for juniors and adults as well as discounts on membership and coaching courses.
The club now has 420 members, aged from 5 to 85, and is well placed for the future with a number of its junior players having achieved county and national junior success.
Chesterfield Lawn Tennis Club tennis director Paul Hatton said: “Having a high-profile role model like Andy Murray definitely helps the club to grow its membership and increase tennis participation.
“However, this needs to be combined with high-quality local coaches who provide a friendly, welcoming environment, where players of all ages and abilities can enjoy the game.
“The challenge now is to maximise the effects of Murray Mania and national media interest in tennis by providing social and competitive opportunities locally and also engaging with the community.
“Our aim is to keep people interested in playing the game all-year round.”
Chesterfield Tennis Club is nationally recognised as having one of the largest schools outreach programmes of any club in the country.
Its coaches deliver after-school clubs and support local teachers in the delivery of their PE lessons. Young people identified through the schools programme have gone on to national junior success and received scholarships to American universities. Some have also gone through the coach education programme to become coaches themselves.
Paul said: “Our work in and with schools is a big part of what we do at the club. It is one of the ways we reach out to people and the community.”
Based on Hawksley Avenue, the club is the largest tennis club in Derbyshire. It has three indoor courts and seven outdoor courts, including five that are floodlit. The £1m indoor tennis centre was opened in 2005.
Paul said: “The then new facilities and indoor courts took the club to a whole new level. You only have to look at the effect the British weather has had on Wimbledon this year to understand that for tennis to be enjoyed all-year round, indoor facilities are a real asset.
“Most people still don’t realise that Chesterfield has a club with indoor courts that are available all year on a pay-and-play basis.
“Although we encourage people to join the club and be part of all the exciting benefits of membership, it is possible to come and pay and play on our courts without being a member.
“Tennis is one of the few sports that you can do as a family. Of the new members who recently joined, a lot came as a family membership.
“Tennis is a sport that everyone can participate in and we have modified equipment to help beginners learn the game.”
As an LTA level 5 coach and a coach education tutor, Paul has led the coaching and development programme at the club for more than 15 years, firmly believing that grassroot clubs like Chesterfield must not only provide tennis for everyone, but also play a role in finding the stars of the future.
He said: “Spotting talent early is the key and our club invests in our talented young players, providing them with a pathway to reach their full potential.”
Raised in Brimington, Paul was Sports Development Assistant at North East Derbyshire before he joined the club. He works alongside head coach Andy Bell, Tony Wilson, Brenig Mills and Ryan Spragg, all of whom were members of the club and came through the club’s programme.
The club, which has teams competing in the Chesterfield and District Tennis League and the Sheffield League, is to stage further initiatives this summer to attract young players to the sport, including children’s holiday clubs throughout August.
Earlier this year the club was saluted for its work with Chesterfield College and its disabilities programme, winning the national LTA and Derbyshire LTA awards in those categories.
With the help of £700 funding from the LTA, they run weekly coaching sessions at the club for college students and also ran tennis leaders courses aimed at developing the next generation of coaches.
Up to 75 students with disabilities also took part in the tennis programme at the club or were supported at their school.
Paul said: “Tennis is a great way to keep fit and active. It is a sport that everyone can participate in and is a great way of meeting new people, learning new skills and making lifelong friends.
“It is really important to make tennis as accessible as possible. If we are going to develop home-grown stars of the future and increase grassroots participation as part of building strong communities and encouraging healthy lifestyles, these kinds of initiatives are vital for the future of British tennis.”
Anyone who would like to find out more about Chesterfield Lawn Tennis Club, how to become a member, its pay-and-play options and children’s summer holiday clubs should call 01246 238798.