Spotlight on Steep Lawn Tennis Club
Originally published on: 15/08/13 00:00
Tell us a little about your background
I started playing tennis when I was around seven or eight at Lee-on-the-Solent Tennis Club on the south coast. I was in a national squad at 14. When I was about 18 I realised I wasn’t going to make it as a professional, I went to college in the States (which I recommend even for aspiring pros). Then I got into coaching and I moved to Steep LTC about ten years ago.
So how would you assess your own game? How many games do you reckon you could take off Andy Murray?
Zero probably! I got to a good level and I was world ranked as a junior but I was looking around me at some of my peers and they were playing better than me. Funding was also an issue – when you get to 17 or 18 you need to start travelling to events and push yourself outside your comfort zone and I didn’t have the money to do that.
I improved a lot when I went to college and that’s why I only stayed a year because I thought I’d have a crack at the professional circuit. I was struggling to get past the qualifying at Futures events however, and I only had enough money to last me nine months. But I always wanted to get into coaching so it was a natural step.
What would you say is the best thing about your job?_ь
Meeting new people and working with different types of players and building relationships, especially when you are helping people reach your goals.
It’s not necessarily about helping someone become a professional player but if they have a reason to be there on the tennis court it is very satisfying to see them improving. Whatever their level I try to provide a standard of coaching to help them fulfil their potential.
For example, there was a lady at the club who was experiencing a hard time regarding the health of a loved one and she once told me that her weekly tennis lesson with me saved her sanity and I was really touched by that. It changed my perspective of coaching and how I quantify success – just keeping people playing and making sure they enjoy tennis is an achievement. If a kid doesn’t make it as a professional but is still playing tennis and enjoying it at 40 then that for me is still a success.
And what’s the worst bit about your job?_ь
The weather. We are in a beautiful scenic location in the South Downs but it doesn’t help that we had two months of snow and more than our fair share of rain this year. Of course it means lost income for me, but it is more about the loss of momentum for the player. If someone comes to me wanting to play five times a week year round, it can be a challenge to provide them with the programme they want because of the conditions.
But we’ve got a golden window of opportunity this summer. This time of year is always quite busy with Wimbledon and the summer holidays but since Murray’s amazing victory we have seen an increase in people coming down to the club. Our local newspaper ran a story on Murray and tagged on a little bit about our summer camps and we’ve had some people phoning up as a result of that. It’s up to us as coaches to make the most of our opportunity. We can moan about the weather or having to compete against other sports, but that’s not an issue right now.
What three words would you use to describe Steep TC
Scenic, supportive, inclusive.
The club is well-run by a committee who have the best interests of the club at heart and I know that is not always the case at some clubs. The chairman, Ben, takes me out for lunch once a month to make sure everything is alright with me. He doesn’t have to do that but that’s just how the club operates.
Who would be your dream doubles partner?_ь
I’ve been fortunate enough to play with former British No.1 Chris Wilkinson a few times but as a kid I worshipped Pete Sampras. Having said that, Sampras didn't play so much doubles, so I’d probably choose John McEnroe – he was a legend doubles player and I loved watching him play too.
Steep Lawn Tennis Club
Tel: 01730 262312
No. of members: Currently approximately 530 but this figure is constantly rising
No. of courts: Eight (6 floodlit). Six hard, two synthetic grass
Club sessions: Wednesday 09:00-10:30, Tuesday 18:00-21:30, Thursday 18:00-21:30, Saturday 13:30-18:00
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