“Richard was not only an amazing coach, but he was my friend. I will never forget him” – remembering inspirational coach, Richard Edgley
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The LTA is deeply saddened to have learnt of the passing this week of Richard Edgley, Disability Tennis Coordinator for the LTA's Open Court programme in Lincolnshire, after a long battle with cancer.
Richard began a full-time position as Head Coach at Grantham Tennis Club in 2001. After a long career in financial services, the change of direction enabled him to do something he loved, so he never saw coaching as a job.
Working alongside Grantham Tennis Club Manager Sarah Patton and Chairman Lianne Firth, he was one of the main driving forces behind the development of an indoor facility at Grantham Tennis Club and was keen to see the club become a centre of excellence for disability tennis.
While Grantham began disability coaching sessions in 2012, Richard attended the LTA’s Disability Awareness coach education course the following year, before being made Head of Disability Tennis in 2014 when the tennis club moved to its new facility. The disability tennis programme grew to include wheelchair, learning disability and wellbeing-specific sessions from 2016.
Four years on from introducing its disability sessions, Grantham Tennis Club was named national 'Disability Club of the Year' in 2017.
Richard’s ethos behind all of his impairment-specific programmes was that it was ‘just tennis’ and he was always keen to normalise disability and promote inclusion.
He had a tremendous natural ability to enthuse and excite people and spent countless hours on court during the annual British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Nottingham as part of a small team engaging new player. Many of the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme players enjoyed their first experience of wheelchair tennis via this route and Richard continued to work with the players in group sessions that complemented their individual personal coaching.
Among the many hundreds of beneficiaries of Richard’s work, passion and commitment over the years are GB wheelchair tennis player Abbie Breakwell and her fellow Grantham Tennis Club member Libby Duncan. Abbie and Libby were so inspired by Richard that they joined forces in early October to do the Race for Life in Richard’s honour.
In paying tribute to Richard, Abbie said: “Richard was not only an amazing coach, but he was my friend. His passion for all things tennis would shine from him, especially with disability tennis. He was a true inspiration to so many. I will dearly miss Richard and all the support he gave me. I will never forget him.”
Although Richard was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, he continued to work tirelessly to help disability tennis thrive throughout the East Midlands and Lincolnshire region.
He transferred his skills and knowledge from his on-court coaching roles to becoming Lincolnshire’s lead for the LTA’s Open Court Programme, travelling near and far to work with other coaches and professionals to open up more opportunities for disabled people. Through Richard’s attitude and endeavour, Lincolnshire now has over 250 disabled people per month picking up a racket at multiple venues that deliver disability-specific or inclusive activities year-round.
Richard was celebrated by Lincolnshire Tennis as its Development Coach of the Year on many occasions and in 2019 was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Lincolnshire Tennis Disability Award has been renamed the Richard Edgley Disability Award to honour his legacy.
Paying tribute to Richard on behalf of the Grantham Tennis Club family, Chairman Lianne Firth said:
“Richard’s absolute love of tennis took him from the world of insurance to a career in tennis coaching and on to the development of all aspects of disability tennis across the county. He found this journey hugely rewarding and, as such, played a very special part in the fabric, the ethos and the development of Grantham Tennis Club. Richard represented all matters coaching on our committee and led the coaching team for many years. He was a key member of the development team which took GTC from a small club to what it is today. We will miss his wry humour, gentle nature and dedication - to tennis, GTC and all those whose lives were enhanced by knowing him.”
Matt Elkington, LTA Disability Tennis Partner said: ”Richard was one of the very first people I met in this role and he gave me crucial insight into how tennis works and how we can have the biggest impact. He taught me to give all things a chance, and to learn from any mistakes instead of over-thinking planning. He was all about getting people on court and enjoying tennis. Without Richard’s countless hours on and off court supporting our Open Court programme we would not have the success and impact we are seeing now. I am proud to have had Richard as one of my Open Court leads and someone who I regard as the standard for other coaches in my region.”
The LTA’s ‘Open Court’ disability tennis programme has grown to become one of the largest of its kind across any sport, supporting grassroots participation activity for disabled people in an impairment specific way – including sessions catering for wheelchair, visually impaired, deaf, learning disability, mental health and other long-term health conditions. There are currently more disabled people playing tennis in Britain than ever before across the LTA’s 500-strong network of venues for disability tennis, with a fivefold increase in participation since 2012.
Richard will truly be missed by all of us in tennis in Britain.