Spotlight on Draycott
Originally published on 26/04/16 00:00
Established in 1972, the club, part of a larger sports centre, is owned by its members and boasts a gym, two indoor and six outdoor tennis courts, squash and badminton courts, as well as a function room for social events.
Recent reason for celebration came when they received a £27,000 loan from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), money to be invested in refurbishing two of their outdoor courts, representing further improvements after two new astroturf courts were opened earlier this year.
The club has quickly become the county's shining beacon of tennis. From tots tennis to adult sessions, the club caters for all ages and the presence of the indoor courts has contributed significantly according to Draycott’s Head Coach, Craig Leese.
“We have 15 groups running, across all age ranges," he said. "The fact we have the indoor courts allows us to keep going all year round and we have a steady group of kids coming through, who are the future of tennis, so it’s encouraging.”
Leese, an LTA Registered Performance Coach, is part of a trio of coaches who are responsible for the sessions put on by the club, which like many, coincides lessons with the local school schedule.
“The adults tend to continue throughout the year because they’re working during the week, but we work parallel to the school term, so the junior sessions are in blocks of six or seven weeks and then we run summer camps in the holidays.”
The importance of summer camps are not to be underestimated. Taking advantage of the stereotypical Wimbledon rush is obvious, yet vital. Over the fortnight at the All England Club, Brits around the country are inspired to go out and pick up a racket. Increasing participation is one of the LTA’s main objectives and summer activities at Draycott not only offer a chance for children to play tennis, but deliver a fusion of sports to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle.
“The sports camps are popular. I think it is a combination of the kids getting bored in the holidays and the parents working. We run them as multi-sports camps, so they like how they can take part in a variety of sports which has led to increased interest,” said Leese.
Another figurehead at the club is the LTA’s Head of Competition, Keith Carder, who, on a voluntary basis, combines his duties at the governing body with the role of club chairman at Draycott, leading the club on what is proving to be a fruitful path. These camps fulfil an aspect of his forward-thinking plans.
“Our focus at Draycott is to increase participation in both tennis and other activities and grow our membership base and income levels so we can continue to improve our facilities,” explains Carder.
Growth is key for any club and Draycott continues to do so year-on-year. However, their elite players flew the flag in April, in a competition where they were up against Britain’s finest.
The National Indoor Premier League Finals were held in Leeds, a club competition which has attracted the likes of ATP doubles world No.1 Jamie Murray in the past. The finals see the country’s top 16 clubs fight it out for the title.
Following their progression from the group stages, Draycott were put in a finals group with Queen's Club and Graves Tennis Club, Sheffield. Defeat to Queen's and a win over Graves was not enough to see the Staffordshire squad through – a team made up of Leese, Andy Cresswell, 44, Draycott Tennis Director Jack Redfern, 19-year-old coach Ryan Hallam and world ranking hopeful Elliott Farmer, 18.
Captain Leese was pleased with his players when taking into account the opposition faced: “To win one and lose the other was a pretty good result considering the quality of the players we were coming up against,” the skipper enthused.
“We came up against players like David Sherwood at Sheffield, who once played Davis Cup doubles with Andy Murray, so to come out with the results we did was positive.”
Competing at that level is a testament to the work done in Staffordshire as Draycott now recognised as one of the country’s elite clubs after putting in a performance that Leese can proudly attribute to home-grown talent.
“The Draycott team were Draycott players and members, whereas some teams draft in players because there are no specific ‘members only’ rules. So it is a pretty good achievement for a small club in comparison to the likes of Edgbaston [Priory Club] and Queen's.”
As he watches on from above, chairman Carder can only sing the praises of a team who have surpassed previously expectations. “We are very lucky to have a strong men’s first team, led by Craig Leese and top junior prospect Elliot Farmer, who is regularly playing British Tour events and recently had some wins over world ranked player," said Carder. “It very pleasing to see Elliot doing well individually too, as it is very tough to compete at such a high level.”
The elite success has propelled Draycott’s name up the ranks in Staffordshire sport and as a part of the Davis Cup Legacy run by the LTA, a scheme which will kick-start in June, kids will be given a free racket and offered the chance to take up the sport.
“The new courts are a massive help, and along with our solid coaching programme, it is going quite well at the moment,” Leese stated modestly.
If this is ‘quite well’, then expect to see further stories of this ‘small club’ from the suburbs of Stoke-on-Trent.