British Tennis Awards: Winners and finalists revealed
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The British Tennis Awards are in place to hail the unsung heroes of our sport.
Launched in 2015 with the help of former LTA president Cathie Sabin OBE and the Tennis Foundation, they celebrate the thousands of people who throw everything they have in to supporting the grassroots of the game, whether it’s through education and disability programmes or recreational competitions and community initiatives.
Last autumn, a record-breaking total of 1,460 nominations were cast to recognise the incredible people and places that help kept tennis ticking across England, Scotland and Wales throughout 2017.
Hundreds of county award winners were announced during the winter months, before those winners were whittled down to regional winners in April. Shortly after, an expert panel made up of LTA, Tennis Foundation and Sport England colleagues, volunteers and former British professional player Naomi Cavaday, got together to decide the overall national winners and finalists, and we’re delighted to share these with you today!
Competition – Cranleigh Grass Court Tennis Festival, Surrey
Brand new for 2017, Cranleigh Grass Court Tennis Festival proved a massive hit with 246 entries for juniors aged between 8 – 18 years. The inaugural Grade 4 competition targeted players who competed regularly, as well as those entirely new to playing in competitions.
The event was the brainchild of Tournament Director Johnny Barr and was born from his desire to bring a fun junior grass court event in to the heart of Surrey. Using nets from Wimbledon qualifying in Roehampton, Johnny and his team worked tirelessly to transform the cricket green in the village of Cranleigh in to a week-long pop-up tennis festival. 12 full-sized grass courts and two touchtennis courts were created in a tight 24-hour timeframe.
Johnny called upon British stars to come along to catch the action and meet the young competitors. Doubles champions Scott Clayton and Jonny O’Mara dropped in during the week, whilst 2016 Wimbledon hero Marcus Willis and Danny Sapsford delivered a Babolat racket demo day and a pro afternoon. Other activities included an on-site coaching clinic, cardio tennis and touchtennis.
Johnny said: “I’m delighted to receive this fabulous award in recognition of what we created at the Cranleigh Grass Court Tennis Festival. My hope is that we can be inspire others to do the same, which is to create a junior tennis festival on grass with the sole emphasis being on fun and literally lots of tennis.”
Huge congratulations to Johnny and his team of umpires, volunteers and coaches who threw everything they had in delivering a fantastic week for local youngsters and their parents. We’re delighted to hear that due to its success, the competition will return for a second year! Cranleigh Grass Court Tennis Festival 2018 will take place from 6 – 11 August, so if you’re interested in competing, head to the official website and enter online! For more information, search the official Twitter and Facebook pages.
Education Venue – Balcarras School, Gloucestershire
Balcarras School in Cheltenham goes above and beyond to help its pupils get the most out of tennis. Working closely with on-site club Charlton Kings Tennis Place, it offers endless opportunities for them to get stuck into the sport.
Balcarras’ PE team coordinate teacher training with Charlton Kings Tennis Place’s head coach Simon Thomas, and together they are continually looking to grow participation at the school.
Balcarras offers a fantastic tennis schedule; every Year 7 – 11 pupil receives tennis sessions during the curriculum with house matches, lunchtime and after school clubs on offer. Assistant Head Teacher Paul Greenway and Simon have also worked hard to help students get a real buzz from tennis, by identifying keen players to represent the school; in 2017, 96 boys and 48 girls filled the minibuses to compete in local matches and county matches.
The school and club work in partnership to deliver free weekly early morning coaching sessions, which are enjoyed by over 40 pupils attending regularly over the summer term. After recognising a decline in Year 11 – 13 students playing tennis, the school encouraged them to integrate with the adult socials at Charlton Kings Tennis Place, which even resulted to pupils representing the club’s league matches.
The partnership has also led to training up 20 LTA Tennis Leaders, who have all gone on to put their new coaching skills to the test by supporting at a primary school festival, the club’s coaching sessions and Mini Tennis tournaments, and Cheltenham’s Mini Tennis festival. Through the school’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme, students have also been encouraged to volunteer across additional local tennis initiatives.
Paul said: “Balcarras is delighted to receive this prestigious award. Our aim for all our pupils is inclusion combined with enjoyment. Long term we hope that they all play sport and specifically tennis throughout their adult life.”
Through its jam-packed programme of tennis during and outside the school day, and goals to continue growing the sport, we couldn’t think of a worthier winner for the Education Venue of the Year Award!
Disability Programme – Desford Tennis Club, Leicestershire
Disability tennis is thriving in Great Britain, led by clubs like Desford Lawn Tennis Club. The club exemplifies how having a welcoming approach and providing accessible opportunities for people with a disability to play, volunteer or work in tennis, can help to open up the sport.
As part of the growing network of venues providing disability tennis opportunities that are supported by Great Britain’s leading tennis charity the Tennis Foundation, the club really is a fantastic example of how tennis can be a sport that is inclusive and accessible to all.
Desford offers an extensive range of sessions for all ages, abilities and backgrounds due to strong connections with local businesses and members volunteering to support the sessions. These volunteers epitomise dedication and commitment, ensuring all players have positive experiences at the club. This inclusive approach has led to a significant increase in new members across all sessions within the last 12 months.
Specific sessions include a group for older players with audio and visual impairment and new hips and knees, a group for those with learning disabilities, tournaments for players on the autism spectrum from local schools, and a group for players and their families who are affected by cancer. One of the club’s coaches, who has special needs himself, attends all of these sessions to help encourage all players to have fun on court.
On top of this, once players feel ready for a spot of competition, the club has run several fun tournaments, with medals presented by the Chief Executive of the Borough Council and the Chair of the Local Sport and Health Alliance.
Desford goes the extra mile to offer the best support to its players; many volunteers have attended sessions with Macmillan Cancer Support, so they can gain the best understanding of how to help participants on and off the court, and they’ve also engaged with Age UK and local doctors surgeries to promote the activities.
Sue Houghton, Chair of Sport in Desford said: "We are thrilled to win this award as it reflects our commitment to grassroots disability tennis, and shows what a relatively small tennis club with limited facilities can achieve with the right ethos, and talented and enthusiastic coaches."
Matthew Elkington, Disability Development Manager (North & Midlands) at the Tennis Foundation said: “Desford is leading the way through their work with disabled audiences, as well as those with long-term health issues by having a particularly strong programme with Macmillan. Desford is striving to change the culture of tennis and they thoroughly deserve to be recognised with this award.”
Community Venue – Totton & Eling Tennis Centre, Hampshire
Totton & Eling Tennis Centre in Hampshire is a friendly club with fantastic facilities for all to use. Under the skilful guidance and management of Richard and Christine, Totton & Eling Tennis Centre goes out of its way to make tennis as accessible as possible for the local community.
The eight courts are constantly bustling, whether they’re occupied by the 200 juniors and 75 adults who attend the weekly coaching programmes, the 130 members, 300 registered casual court hirers or hundreds of players who opt to ‘pay-and play’.
The club has built strong relationships with local schools and over 2,000 students have been able to have fun on court thanks to its annual schools outreach programme. It offers teacher training sessions in association with New Forest School Sports Partnership to help youngsters get as much as they can from the game and last summer, it delivered a ‘Go Hit It’ project with three local secondary schools. This encouraged 496 young students to take part in various activities including lunchtime and after school clubs, curriculum coaching, competitions and casual ‘turn up and play’ sessions.
Totton & Eling is no stranger to events! In 2017 it hosted Hampshire & IOW’s Champion of Champions inter-club event, the Solent Cup competition between Southampton and Portsmouth Club doubles league winners and the New Forest Inter-School Competitions which saw 350 children take part. Each May, it welcomes over 200 people – many who are completely new to the game - to come down and enjoy tennis for free across two open days, one as part of the Great British Tennis Weekend, and the other in partnership with Totton & Eling Arts Festival.
Recently, the club introduced an electronic court booking system to allow non-members to access courts outside of ‘manned’ club hours. Its new community practice wall invites the people to practice tennis, football and cricket for free and its Community Café offers the opportunity for families to attend the centre informally, without the pressure of having to play.
Finally, all coaches are mentored and offered a pathway in to tennis coaching and management, and in turn are passionate about delivering fun coaching programmes such as Tennis for Kids, which saw 60 children sign up to the introductory six-week course in 2017.
The list of achievements for the centre goes on and is testament to the team’s hard work and determination!
Winners of the remaining award categories will be announced at the official Awards Ceremony at The Championships, Wimbledon, on July 3. Check out who’s in the running for each award below and keep an eye out on our website throughout June and July as we bring their stories to you…
- Patricia Smith, Penzance Tennis Club, Cornwall
- Christine Knight, Meldreth Tennis Club, Cambridgeshire
- Helen Buckingham, Market Bosworth Tennis Club, Leicestershire
- Lucy Bryden, Longniddry Tennis Club, East Lothian
- Elaine Ball, Droitwich Lido Park Tennis Courts, Hereford & Worcestershire
- Zsuzsanna Puskas, Thornhill Tennis Club, Yorkshire
- Jessica Barton, Portsmouth Tennis Centre, Hampshire
- Bradley Smith, Pershore Tennis Centre, Worcestershire
- Jonathon Dawes, Rhyl Tennis Club, Denbighshire
- Tom Crisp, Surbiton Racket & Fitness Club, Surrey
- Francesca Lewis, Swansea Tennis Centre, Swansea
- Ashley Neaves, Portsmouth Tennis Centre, Hampshire
- Robert Balmforth, Yorkshire
- Jenny Sayer, Hampshire
- Tim Pearce, Surrey
- Skipton Tennis Centre, Yorkshire
- Avenue Tennis, Kent
Feeling inspired? Check out our volunteering opportunities and get involved today!