Anyone for tennis? If watching Wimbledon has made you yearn for a match then you might want to visit Shaftesbury Community Tennis Club, to see what’s on offer for members.
They are holding an open day on Sunday 8th July between 10am and 1pm. Go along and you can try a top-of-the-range Head racket, to see whether it could improve your game. Club Chairman Ian Griffin of Griffin Tennis Academy will offer coaching sessions and Ian says there’s even a machine that can measure your speed.
“We’ve got a speed gun to see how fast your serve is. I think the fastest serve recorded is 163 miles an hour but it is normally around 125 miles an hour for a man. A club tennis player should be getting 60 or 70. It’s lightning quick,” said Ian, adding that he’s managed to achieve 97mph.
Ian is a highly accomplished coach. He’s been named the best coach in Dorset and he’s also achieved the highest qualification as a Lawn Tennis Association coach. “Two Christmases ago I passed the level 5 LTA coaching badge, which is the top level there is. It took two years to achieve,” said Ian. He went back to university and travelled all around the country doing modules. He also went to Spain for five days to work with the top national players.
“I’m hoping to start running courses for the LTA at some point, in 10 or 20 years, when my knees give way,” he laughed.
Ian is a Shaftesbury resident and his connection with the town goes back 12 years. “I went to Bournemouth University for four years and on my gap year I took a year out in industry,” explained Ian. “I applied for a job as a tennis coach at Shaftesbury Secondary School. It was a partnership with Marnhull Tennis Club and Active Dorset. After two lots of coaching for six weeks, it was uncertain who would deal with the finances, so I continued in a self-employed role and went through university to complete my dissertation. When I finished uni, I thought let’s give it a go.”
Ian is proud of what he has achieved in just over a decade. “Twelve years later we have 130 kids and 50 adults in the coaching programme and we have teams in the Dorset, Yeovil and District and Shaftesbury and District leagues. It’s just flourished, really,” he said.
The club’s management has developed, too. “It’s gone from basically a tennis club that I ran myself to a constitutional club. We have ten volunteers on the committee and they really help me with the amount of administration that’s involved and with the league fixtures,” Ian said.
So what changes would Ian like for the club’s future?
“The only thing that we desperately need now is some courts that we can use before 3pm. The school courts are a bit limiting,” he said. “We’re actively trying to pursue that as a tennis club. That’s the dream going forwards.”
As the club is on the school site, understandably, students take priority during term time. “We have planning permission for new courts at Shaftesbury Secondary School. But we haven’t got any further yet with that in terms of financing,” Ian said. “We would be looking to make a Sports England and LTA grant bid but because the courts and the planning permission are in the name of the school, we are in the schools hands,” he said.
Tennis is associated with summer and the next few weeks are the perfect time to get down to the club. “For the six weeks of the summer holidays, you can book a court free of charge if you are a member. Membership is only £21 for a primary school child, £26 for a secondary pupil and £55 for an adult member. If you come along to Sunday’s open day between 10am and 1pm, we have membership deals on the day. Six weeks during the holidays, when you can use the courts all the time, is great value,” Ian said.
Ian’s hobby and passion has become his business and full-time occupation but he’s not become tired of it. “If I’m not on a tennis court I am at home watching live sport – golf, tennis or football. Or I’m on the golf course or running. Sport is my passion. It’s what I do every day. I love it,” Ian enthused.
So, with so many other sporting interests why is tennis so special to Ian?
“I think it’s just a game for all ages. You can’t see a 70-year-old man playing rugby but you can see him playing tennis. I’ve taught an 85-year-old. It’s a lifelong sport,” Ian added.
Can Ian help local learners who are worried about feeling self-conscious in front of well-seasoned tennis players?
“We’ve got specific classes for that type of adult who might feel nervous. We call it ‘rusty rackets’,” Ian smiled. “It’s on a Wednesday night. If you are not feeling too confident or haven’t played since school, it is for you. It’s not like we throw you in at the deep end in competitive tennis.”
Ian says he can make a tennis player out of anybody, even if they have poor hand-eye coordination. “We have specific drills and exercises to help everyone,” he said. “I love working with people who haven’t played tennis before, as I see it as a blank canvas. Sometimes the worst thing is teaching somebody who has played for 20 years. You have to break the habits and sometimes that feels like it is impossible. It’s almost a dream when somebody is new to the game,” he said, adding, “There’s so much you can do to get them into good habits from the beginning.”
There are free hot drinks at the club on Sunday, courtesy of Bamboo Coffee Barista Bar. You can get more information at ShaftesburyCommunityTennisClub.co.uk.