Volunteers’ Week: Shining the spotlight on our inspirational volunteers
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It’s Volunteers’ Week so we’re shining the spotlight on nine inspirational volunteers – all of which have been named British Tennis Awards finalists.
There are at least 25,000 tennis volunteers in England, Scotland and Wales, creating endless opportunities for people to get on court and enjoy the game. Three years ago, with the help of Britain’s leading tennis charity the Tennis Foundation, we launched the British Tennis Awards as a way to say ‘thank you’ to them.
Now in their third year, the British Tennis Awards saw a record-breaking total of 1,460 nominations. These were then whittled down to county winners during the winter months, before regional winners were then named 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 on the national finalists for three volunteer awards – Young Volunteer of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Outstanding Achievement - and we’re delighted to share their stories with you today!
Lucy Bryden – Longniddry Tennis Club, East Lothian
Lucy is the Chair of Longniddry Tennis Club – a two-court community club which now has 175 members thanks to her hard work and determination over the last five years. On top of her responsibilities on the committee, she volunteers as a coaching assistant and encourages others at the club to get involved with the coaching team too.
Lucy was instrumental in delivering a new disability programme and drove the schools outreach programme at two local high schools, working closely with the local authority. Her passion for getting more people playing tennis is second to none, and she has created endless opportunities for teenagers to play tennis, in particular girls. For example, a local high school now has a thriving girls’ programme with over 12 students playing tennis on a weekly basis.
Lucy has also encouraged more females to take part in the new East Lothian Community Tennis ladies’ team and always brings inspiring ideas to the East Lothian tennis development group.
Elaine Ball – Droitwich Lido Park Tennis Courts, Hereford and Worcester
Raising £40,000 in 12 months to resurface park courts is no mean feat, but Elaine Ball proved that when there’s a will there’s a way! Working closely with a small team of volunteers, the local council, schools, sponsors and businesses, Elaine and fellow fundraiser Neil Bates liaised with Wychavon District Council to match fund £30,000 and the remaining £10,000 was secured through generous donations and local fundraising initiatives for the whole community to engage with!
On top of her campaign, Elaine also raised funds to deliver low-cost ‘pay as you go’ tennis at the same park courts. Thanks to a partnership established with Droitwich Tennis Club, the coaching sessions are priced at £2 per person with all equipment provided, resulting to 80 new people taking up tennis – and many of them for the first time. She has also liaised with the local press to really drive awareness of the sessions so that more and more locals can get on court!
Zsuzsanna Puskas – Thornhill Tennis Club, Yorkshire
Zsuzsanna’s support for Thornhill Tennis Club has no limits. From visiting local schools to promote the club, to applying for grant opportunities to improve facilities - Zsuzsanna has it covered!
Her focus on driving membership engagement is unprecedented; she delivered a dance taster session which kickstarted a new weekly dance club, initiated a ladies tennis morning once a week and launched a rounders club for parents whilst their kids attend coaching sessions.
She coordinates the cleaning of the clubhouse, supports on events such as Great British Tennis Weekend, and organises a number of fundraisers to help families get their kids into tennis at no cost. If that's not enough, she secured an LTA coach to run voluntary sessions at a local primary school, coordinated court bookings in the absence of an automatic system and arranged a Monster Smash tournament which involved getting 30 ‘monsters and ghouls’ on court one evening.
Jess Barton – Portsmouth Tennis Centre, Hampshire
After having a tough time at school, Jess turned to tennis to regain focus and has never looked back. She met the coaching team at Portsmouth Tennis Centre nearly two years ago and began playing regularly before she started coaching young girls in the Miss-Hits sessions. As a result, she built strong relationships with these players, which has had a positive impact on them returning week on week. Jess also assists with the weekly Downs Syndrome sessions and the players look forward to seeing her each week!
She widely supports all open days and events – in September she helped deliver a free roadshow open day where more than 420 new children played tennis for the first time. In 2017, she successfully completed the LTA Level 1 coaching qualification as she targets a career in tennis.
Brad Smith – Pershore Tennis Centre, Worcestershire
Brad volunteers at Pershore Tennis Centre every Saturday morning, supporting the Head Coach during the teen sessions and disability classes for children and adults with Downs Syndrome. He shows great kindness and patience on court so that all players can experience the joy of tennis.
Brad's teamwork and leadership skills were well and truly highlighted when he stepped up to organise the club’s annual Children in Need fundraiser which raised over £1,000. He led the event and coordinated four coaches, six tennis leaders, over 100 children and the press to ensure everything ran smoothly. It proved to be such a hit that BBC Local Radio covered it and interviewed Brad live on air!
On top of everything, he still finds time to study for his A Levels and plays in the men’s and mixed teams, acting as a true role model to all other juniors.
Jonathon Dawes – Rhyl Tennis Club, Denbighshire
The list of Jonathon’s volunteering activities is endless. He single-handedly organises a weekly tennis club at Rhyl High School, has led six tennis festivals at the school and Rhyl Tennis Club, and has delivered a wheelchair tennis session for Rhyl Raptors Basketball Team. He has also supported Great British Tennis Weekends, summer camps, Team Challenge competitions, county training, and a disability tennis day in Wrexham, to name just a few!
He volunteers each week at Rhyl Tennis Club as a Tennis Leader and is the co-captain of the club’s Mini Red and Mini Green teams. A keen player himself, Jonathon is the captain of his school’s tennis team and last year, he completed a 12-hour tennis marathon and raised £1,651 for Comic Relief. His efforts have seen him rewarded with many certificates and awards including the Youth Award at the Mayor’s Gala, a Blue Peter Sports Badge and Denbighshire County Council’s Young Inspiration Award.
Tricia Smith – Penzance Tennis Club, Cornwall
Tricia first joined Penzance Tennis Club as a member in 2010 and soon after stepped up to become the club’s Honorary Treasurer. Since then, she has made an outstanding contribution to all areas of the club – whether it’s bringing her accounting expertise to forefront by producing a monthly financial report, or welcoming new players by introducing them to existing members at the weekly social sessions so they feel welcome.
She is always looking to enhance members’ experiences which has led to the club attaining 350 adult members and 100 juniors which really is remarkable given its rural location! She organises fun tennis tournaments, offers free bridge lessons, captains the club’s teams and constantly encourages juniors to represent the club; putting a real emphasis on giving less confident players the opportunity to play tennis as part of a team.
Tricia is forever putting herself forward to help the club save money – when they needed replacement lockers, she volunteered to renovate the existing ones by sanding and painting them herself, and she delivered a project that saw the club install solar panels so that it saves on electricity bills, whilst becoming more environmentally friendly at the same time.
Christine Knight – Meldreth Tennis Club, Cambridgeshire
Not many people can say they have completely transformed two clubs, but Christine Knight is the exception to the rule! She has been the driving force behind two club redevelopment projects – first Royston Tennis Club and most recently Meldreth Tennis Club.
The courts at Royston Tennis Club had deteriorated so badly that it had to move temporarily to a local school. In the meantime, Christine led a project which saw six all-weather floodlit courts built which led to a surge in membership – for example, when the club relocated to the school, there were just two teams in the local summer league, but since returning to the original site, there are now five men’s and four ladies’ teams!
She then went on to raise £42,600 to enable two courts to be rebuilt at Meldreth Tennis Club. Working with the committee, she developed a strategy and fundraising plan, and successfully project managed the entire campaign. Afterwards, she organised an open day for families so they could play on the new courts, meet the coach and find out about the opportunities available.
Helen Buckingham – Market Bosworth Tennis Club, Leicestershire
Helen first joined Market Bosworth Tennis Club in 1973, and since then has taken on more or less every role on the committee.
Before 1997, the club had around 100 members, but Helen supported a relocation project which saw the club double its membership. It now has 18 adult and junior teams, with an active club night and diverse coaching programme for all ages and abilities.
As Chair for over ten years, Helen was the major driver behind securing a £187,619 lottery grant and gained loans and sponsorship to fund the £300,000 development on the current site. As a result, she leaves a legacy that means the club features six floodlit courts and a sociable clubhouse for all to enjoy.
A true advocate for getting the younger generation into tennis, Helen was responsible for starting up a coaching programme for seven local schools. This has been rolling for over ten years and means 300 primary school children can enjoy free coaching from qualified coaches for six weeks each year. On top of this, she still finds time to have her own fun on court and previously captained the ladies team for many years.
The outright winner of each award will be announced at the official awards ceremony at The Championships, Wimbledon, on July 3, amongst 11 additional award categories including: Coach, Official, Competition, Disability Programme, Education Venue, Community Venue, Club, Male Player, Female Player, Young Male Player and Young Female Player.
Find out how you can get into volunteering and check out our volunteering opportunities today!