Award-winning coach, Alessia Palmieri, celebrates achievements with Judy Murray as first in a new four-part video series
• 4 MINUTE READ
Coach Alessia Palmieri was congratulated by tennis legend Judy Murray when she dropped into her club to celebrate her achievement in being named national Development Coach of the Year.
Alessia was crowned LTA Development Coach of the Year at the 2023 LTA Tennis Awards, featuring alongside a star-studded ceremony at the National Tennis Centre during Wimbledon in July.
Launched in 2015, the awards highlight the incredible achievements and contributions of people in tennis across Britain.
As the first in a new four-part video series on LTA Tennis Award winners, we caught with Alessia at her club’s big celebration of her achievement, as she and Judy got on court to run a coaching session for local kids.
Watch Alessia's episode
Fossoway Tennis Club, a one-court club in the village of Crook of Devon, near Kinross in Scotland, was packed with children, friends, family and club members who all turned up for a BBQ to help celebrate Alessia’s success.
The club were later joined by Judy, who joined in with the festivities – hitting with the kids, stopping for photos and sharing in the excitement of serving up the big prize.
Judy said: “I think it's a wonderful example of what can be achieved. Obviously, it's not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have.
“And when you've just got one-court you need to try to maximise the numbers because you can see that the demand and the interest in the village is massive.
“The number of people who have turned out today - and the excitement of everybody to come and celebrate Alessia’s achievement of her award – you can just feel the community spirit.’’
“You often find that the coaches who get the most kudos are the ones who work at the top end of the game, but actually the ones who nurture the love for the game and do all this wonderful work at grassroots are for me, the lifeblood of the sport.’’
Alessia, 31, who was born in Perthshire and brought up in the village – was rewarded for all her hard work after spearheading a sporting revolution at Fossoway. The tiny club, based in the heart of the small close-knit community, sandwiched between the church and a row of houses nestled down a small lane, now boasts nearly 300 members, including 120 children who attend the weekly classes.
She established an after-school and weekend programme for kids of all ages post Covid lockdowns. Alessia runs regular sessions for toddlers through to adults, as well as more intensive sessions for Fossoway’s competitive players. A hive of activity for the village, now almost every primary school pupil plays tennis at the court, and she’s also overseen initiatives to attract new adult players into the game.
She has been so particularly successful at encouraging girls to take up the sport.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with several girls-only initiatives, the most recent one being LTA Youth Girls. The LTA’s team challenge ‘Girl, Set, match’ has really helped introduce girls to competition in a fun way and I regularly run these at Fossoway. I’ve found these events have helped boost girls’ confidence and motivated them to play friendly matches against other clubs.
“This year, we’ve had more girls than boys competing which is amazing and part of that is due to the ‘team’ side of things. Team tennis is so important at all levels of the game.”
More than 50 youngsters played in tournaments away from the club last year, some of them notching up notable victories. The 8U team have made it through to the finals of the 8U North of Scotland National league this year; several players have been invited along to district squads and have represented the North of Scotland; and one player has even been invited along to Tennis Scotland national training sessions.
Despite all the hard work, Alessia couldn’t believe it when her name came out of the envelope at the LTA Tennis Awards.
The young coach, who spent time working for Cliff Drysdale Tennis in the USA before returning home during Covid, had already been named Development Coach of the Year by Tennis Scotland in April.
She didn’t think she stood a chance against some of the biggest and busiest clubs around the country.
“We’re just a tiny one-court club. All we’ve got is a hut where we keep our equipment.
“I saw who I was up against and knew there was serious competition! But I'm absolutely delighted to be awarded National Development Coach of the Year – it’s something I’ll treasure forever. Plus, it’s great recognition for the club. This award has definitely put Fossoway on the map and hopefully it can help us receive some funding for much needed floodlights and general club improvements”.
Ben Thornber, Chair of Fossoway, said: “We are all delighted that Alessia has earned the recognition that she well deserves. She came back to the village during the difficult Covid period and gave it her all – and the village responded.
“Since then the whole Club and Community has benefited from her efforts and has gone from strength to strength. We are all very proud of her – especially as she is from the village and has the best interests of the Club and the village at heart.’’
Now the club committee plan to build on her success and expand the facilities so the children and the rest of the village can play all year round.
Nominations for the 2024 LTA Tennis Awards are now open
Do you know a tennis hero who you think deserves to be recognised with an LTA Tennis Award? Nominations for the 2024 LTA Tennis Awards are open until 30 November.