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Creating a social hub for members and the community – how social activities are helping Brucehaven Tennis Club continue to grow

• 4 MINUTE READ

What's one of the best things about playing tennis at a club? Socialising. Tennis is a fantastic way to meet new people and make new friends - something that Brucehaven Tennis Club in Limekilns know all too well.

This community-driven, village club put the social benefits of the sport front and centre with a comprehensive tennis programme for players of all ages and abilities that not only improves their game and keeps them active, but invites them in to join their thriving community.

We sat down with Head Coach Alan Russell and Hilary Donnelly, Club Treasurer, to speak about their progressive tennis programme, focus on bringing the wider community into the club, creating a fun and social environment and the potential addition of Pickleball.

Find out more about Brucehaven Tennis Club

“I’ve been on the committee for around four years now and our club has developed hugely over the last few years,” said Hilary. “We’re a small club that has two courts but we’re also a very friendly club who try to include the community in a lot of things.

“We’re a really sociable club that offers an extensive variety of tennis and we try to be as inclusive as possible. We have plenty of social nights, we’ve got the cardio tennis sessions, junior events, and kids team tennis where we join up with other local clubs.”

Alan added, “For me, the club knows exactly where it wants to be and has gone through a process of changing and developing what it does to meet that target.

“We did a survey of our members recently and most of them said they’re seeking social fun and the physical/mental wellbeing of playing tennis over being competitive. There are obviously some more competitive members, but the real drive is the social and wellbeing aspect that tennis gives.

“Our social tennis events that the committee has put on, which is just tennis with lots of activities, have been hugely successful - the scores aren’t recorded for any other reason than to work out who wins the prizes”.

Alan and Hilary highlighted that while Brucehaven has achieved a lot over the last few years, they are particularly proud of how they bounced back from the pandemic to see a soar in membership sign-ups, thanks to the hard work they’ve invested to progress the club.

“Our continued membership growth is something we’re extremely proud of. The membership has increased by 113% since lockdown and has grown even more throughout 2023, alongside the number of juniors playing in county squads and teams taking part in local leagues.

“I think that growth is down to the work we do to connect with the community and partners such as community groups, the Rainbows group, local schools, and organisations such as Active Schools, which is the local government organisation that develops sport in schools.

Brucehaven-Group.jpg

“Our aim is to bring people from outside of the sport into the club and playing. We’ve run tennis activities at community events such as the local gala, and free community tennis classes during the summer months where we’ve invited the local community into the club and we’ve had new members trickle in steadily.”

During winter, while the courts stay busy during the daylight hours, the club is also holding other activities for all members to come and enjoy in the evenings, including a new sport that is becoming increasingly popular…

“We’re planning on holding an introduction and taster session to Pickleball soon to see what the demand is.

“Tennis is very much a summer sport here because we don’t have floodlights so there’s a dip in activity when the evenings are short. We were arranging some table tennis sessions and thought let’s see if there’s a demand for Pickleball, because it’s quite flexible for us to run both indoors and outdoors, at the club and other local venues.

Brucehaven-Pickleball-Session.jpg

With Brucehaven continuously attracting new members, the club has adopted a simple but very effective approach to ensuring incoming members are seamlessly integrated to the club and made to feel welcome amongst other players.

“It’s important to connect new members with people and set them up with the right people to practise with - otherwise people can join and not know who to play with.

“We’ve got a WhatsApp group for active players, so when the new members come into the club, we encourage them to join the group so they can start to connect with other players immediately.

“Someone might post and say, ‘I’m not working tomorrow, is anyone free for a hit’ and those who are available will reply and arrange to practise or play matches. In this way, social tennis groups are built, adding to the connections made in the two organised weekly social tennis sessions. I think it’s a really big factor for new people who move to the village – maybe their partners or family members don’t play tennis but they do and want to find others to play with.

It’s really important for us to understand that people stay in clubs because of the people. Often individuals join a club because of people – they may be referred by a friend or family member but at the end of the day, they stay at the club because of the friendships they make.

With the ambition to continue developing and moving the club forward, the future looks bright for Brucehaven – but what other projects have they got in sight for the upcoming year?

“Social seems to be the direction the club is heading in. The clubhouse is quite dated, so we’d like to improve the facilities there, making it more welcoming and comfortable.  We also have to increase our equipment storage capacity. Other than that, we plan to continue developing the social tennis event programme and obviously see how Pickleball takes up as well.”

Brucehaven Tennis Club

Learn more about Brucehaven Tennis Club and the work they are doing to create a welcoming, fun and sociable environment for the local community.

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