Humans of the Court: Arum’s Story
• 6 MINUTE READ
Humans of the Court is a brand new content series on Instagram from the LTA, bringing you real life stories from those who make tennis in Britain what it is.
Whether they be players, coaches or volunteers, young or old, beginners picking a racket for the first time or life-long veterans, the series will showcase those involved in tennis in communities across the country and shine a spotlight on the many faces of the sport. Follow the LTA and the #HumansOfTheCourt* hashtag on Instagram to uncover more stories!
When Arum Akom first made the short journey from his home in Camberwell to Burgess Park tennis courts as a young child, he had no idea just how big a part the sport and those courts would play in his life. Nor could he have envisaged the role he himself would go on to play in helping others in his community to progress in tennis and enjoy the benefits of the sport.
Arum, 22, is now an LTA Level 3 Accredited Coach, delivering sessions for talented local juniors on the same Southwark park courts where he first picked up a racket.
His journey started, as is the case for many younger siblings, by following in the footsteps of his older brother and heading down to the Burgess Park courts and getting involved in sessions.
"I grew up on these courts, it's like a family here"
“My earliest memory of tennis was coming to this club” recalls Arum. “It was my older brother who started playing first, and it was one of those things where if you have a sibling doing something you are more likely to follow. I only live two or three minutes from here – I just came along, filled in a form and wanted to learn how to play”.
“I then started just coming down and doing squad classes with the other kids – I did that on a regular basis and then started playing consistently. I grew up on these courts, it's like a family here”.
My first competition outside of the club...
A sports mad kid who loved being active, Arum played a lot of different sports growing up, including football, table tennis and badminton, but it is tennis that has taken centre stage in his life.
“For tennis, I like the individual nature of the sport. I am a team player but I like the fact that it is down to me on the court and the satisfaction of that. My most vivid memory of tennis growing up was playing my first competition outside of the club – I’d never done that before and had only played here at the club. I think I was 12 at the time.”
“My coach took me and the rest of my friends to a tournament at Sutton Tennis Academy. It was nice to go outside to another venue at that age and see all these other kids playing tennis like I was, and that experience is something I will always look back on and remember, and thank my coach for”.
Helping others develop their talent
Following that first taste of travelling to compete, Arum would go on to have success in winning local tournaments, and a desire to share his talent and help others develop and succeed would lead on to what his now his career.
Beginning by assisting junior & adults sessions at his home club in 2015, Arum started his journey along the LTA’s coaching pathway by gaining his Level 1 qualification, before swiftly progressing to Level 2 and then gaining Level 3 status the following year. Determined to forge a career doing what he loved, Arum then studied Physical Education Teaching and Coaching at the University of Roehampton, graduating with a BA Honours degree last year.
As an LTA Accredited Coach Arum is part of the LTA’s professional membership scheme for coaches – giving him a stamp of approval that is recognised by the industry. The scheme has been developed to provide relevant support to British tennis coaches and their businesses, helping them to deliver great on-court experiences and grow their programmes. It also unlocks a range of educational opportunities to support career development, and a package of benefits including insurance to help protect coaches’ on-court career.
Five years on from taking the first steps on his coaching career and now working as an Assistant Performance Coach for SSPT on the courts of South London, Arum is continuing to help give the next generation the kind of experiences he remembers so fondly from his youth.
“As a coach on the sidelines, I now watch my students in competition and that is fantastic. To anyone thinking about getting involved in tennis, I’d just say ‘Pick up a racket, try it out and see if it is for you’. Tennis is a lifelong sport you can play at any age, and it can be for anyone”.
Getting back on court after lockdown...
With the Burgess Park courts regularly full with players, that seems to be advice that many more are following, and this year more than any other year Arum has noticed a surge in interest in the sport, as well as benefiting from a return to tennis himself.
“Since lockdown eased, so many more people are coming down to play tennis who wouldn’t have done before COVID-19. The members here at Burgess Park are fantastic, and to see so many new faces on court to interact with and have a great time playing tennis, it’s amazing.
“In lockdown it was terrible without tennis and felt very restrictive. I went through phases where I was down but I picked myself back up, and now I’m back on court making the most of it on court every day, training hard, coaching hard and helping people around me to enjoy tennis. It’s just nice to be back out there and doing what you love.
“Tennis can definitely help with wellbeing. My first game back after lockdown, I just felt free on the court. The experiences the game gives, helps me deal with things off the court. There are also so many skills this sport has taught me.
"Communication is one of the most important of those – in my role as a coach, I coach a lot of different type of students, and I have to be able to change the way I talk to people, and that’s helped me in other areas of my life too”.