‘I want to give back to the tennis community that has done so much for me.’: LTA ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ Jonathon Dawes
• 7 MINUTE READ
It’s been almost a year since 17 year old Jonathon Dawes from Rhyl, Wales, scooped the ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ gong at the annual LTA Tennis Awards.
Recognised for outstanding achievements at his local tennis club in Rhyl, Jonathon – who has volunteered in tennis since he was 11 years old- was praised for independently setting up tennis sessions for students after school, running a ‘Tennis Skills’ week which led to over 1,000 children picking up a racket and leading fun tennis sessions for disabled children in the local area.
So, in celebration of what would be ‘National Volunteers’ Week’, we spoke to Jonathon to reflect on his past year, talk about his most recent nomination for a National Diversity Award and discuss how he has been helping the elderly and vulnerable during Covid-19.
Hi Jonathon - Congratulations on all of your incredible achievements over the past year! Tell us about life after you won an LTA Tennis Award…we hear things have been quite busy on and off court?
First of all, thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you today. Yes it has been an extremely busy year on court and of court since the LTA Tennis Awards!
On court, I have been developing and growing the tennis programme at Rhyl Tennis Club, ensuring that it is accessible for more people. I have been running fun-filled ‘Tennis for Kids’ courses, as well as regular competitions and events for players including a ‘Team Challenge’, an adult’s doubles master class and an exciting Cardio Tennis Class with Sabrina Stocker. As a result, we are now seeing double the number of participants on the programme and it is going from strength to strength!
Last summer, I worked at the Tennis Wales Welsh Championships as the on court activities lead, which included running Team Challenges, a Quorn family Tennis Cup, a mixed doubles competition and much more! More recently, I have started as the North Wales County Under 8s Assistant Coach too, so I am enjoying working and developing the future stars of North Wales tennis. Since the LTA Awards, I have also been awarded with both Denbighshire and Wales ‘Online Coach of the Year 2019’.
Off court, I have been extremely busy with my work as a Member of Welsh Youth Parliament for the Vale of Clwyd amongst other things too, so It has been certainly an exciting and busy year and I am looking forward to what is coming ahead!
You were named our ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ as a result of your tireless dedication to our sport. What is your main driver for volunteering thousands and thousands of hours to help others?
My main driving factor when it comes to volunteering in tennis is that I wanted to give back to the tennis community that has done so much for me. I started as a volunteer and my main aim was to help and break down participation barriers to tennis, making it a far more inclusive and accessible sport for everyone, in all parts of the UK but in my case North Wales. My work started by just volunteering in my local club, but then I branched out to volunteer at a variety of clubs in North Wales through things like coaching, running competitions, learning disability and wheelchair sessions .The work I do genuinely makes a difference to young people in my community so that is all of the motivation I need. I see the impact of my work on a daily basis and see how much it helps to open up tennis – a vision I share with the LTA.
You’re one of 25,000 incredible volunteers in our sport – how does it feel to be part of such a big community? Have you made any friends through volunteering in tennis?
The volunteering community in tennis is like no other. Volunteers in tennis show commitment, motivation and drive that inspires me every day and being part of this community is really rather something special. I have been lucky enough during my journey as a volunteer to make so many new friends from across Wales and the UK. We all have the same goals and everyone I meet is so lovely! I have made friendships that I will indeed cherish for the rest of my life!
What would you say is your biggest achievement in tennis to date?
Now that is a good question! However, one that is hard to answer. Winning the LTA ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ was truly incredible. To be recognised on a national level at an award ceremony at Wimbledon, meeting HRH Duchess of Cambridge as well as mixing with tennis stars including Judy Murray and Leon Smith was unbelievable - a dream come true for any young volunteer.
I was also the recipient of a BCyA (British Citizens Youth Award) at the Palace of Westminster, which was truly a day to remember. Though, I am extremely proud of my accolades, some of my proudest achievements are what I have done on court - increasing opportunity and provision for young people in Rhyl, through regular coaching and competition, working with local learning disability schools and mentoring players and young volunteers, all of which I am extremely proud of.
You are an inspiration to many, but we’d love to know who inspires you?
So many people inspire me to do the work I do, but my tennis inspirations are Judy Murray and Leon Smith.
What Judy has done for tennis in Britain speaks for itself - producing two Grand slam champions and inspiring more female coaches. For me, her determination and commitment to the sport, as well as her work with young volunteers helps to make tennis a better sport for all of us. She has been incredibly supportive of my work too!
And of course Leon inspires me as he led Great Britain to its first Davis Cup title in 79 years. I will never forget when he rang me as I was walking home from coaching to congratulate me on being nominated for LTA ‘Young Person of the Year’. His and Judy’s values and work inspire a lot of my actions on and off the tennis court.
You’ve recently been nominated for ‘Positive Role Model of the Year’ at the National Diversity Awards, which highlight role models, community organisations and the best of British diversity. How did it feel to be nominated and can we vote for you?
Yes I have and I am absolutely ecstatic to have been nominated for an award on this scale for my work as a tennis coach and volunteer, as well as my work as a Welsh Youth Parliament Member. This award decided by voting and anyone can vote! It would mean so much if the tennis community could support me by voting for me for my work. It is very simple process and only takes a few minutes to do, using this link.
Your volunteering efforts don’t just stop at tennis, we’ve heard you’ve also been helping the elderly and vulnerable during Covid-19. Can you tell us more?
During these truly unprecedented times, I have been doing all I can to support my community. I have been working in collaboration with the local food banks and local shops to deliver food to vulnerable and elderly people in the community who cannot get out. I have also utilised my elected position as a Welsh youth Parliament Member to voice and raise the concerns of young people when we had a Zoom Chamber sessions with the First Minister of Wales Rt Hon Mark Drakeford AM.
And finally…what would you say to anyone who is reading this who is thinking about volunteering in tennis?
Absolutely 100% go for it!! Volunteering equips you with incredible experiences and skills that will support you in the world of work and on a daily basis. But ultimately, the change you are able to drive as a tennis volunteer is like no other. It will make a difference to the lives of so many people in your community and beyond, which I have been lucky enough to see first-hand. That is the reason why I signed up to be a volunteer in the first place - not for the awards, but to make a difference and you really can make a difference through volunteering in tennis.
Feeling inspired by Jonathon? From supporting your local venue to getting involved at our tournaments, find out how you can get into volunteering.