Putting community above all else, Grantham strives to be one of the most inclusive tennis clubs in the country.
Due to COVID-19, community sports clubs across the UK were forced to close their doors, in line with Government guidance.
But despite the pandemic bringing all of grassroots sports to a grinding halt, coronavirus has made Grantham’s role in their local community that much more important.
“We made sure all of the coaching team stayed in touch with all of the players during lockdown,” explained club manager Sarah Patton.
“We wanted to do this because we’re very aware that it’s more than just sport that we provide. I think that’s the same for all grassroots clubs.
“At Grantham, we run mental health projects here too, so it was important to us that we kept that communication - through Zoom, e-mails, calls - going!
“We also set up little regular group meetings online so that coaches and players could keep in touch with others. It’s really kept our community spirit alive during coronavirus.”
Having played tennis all of her life, Sarah got involved with Grantham Tennis Club after moving to the town with her family 16 years ago.
And with female coaches scarce in the region, Sarah was quickly brought on-board, before becoming the club manager in 2008 after a local businessman invested in the club’s expansion.
“Grantham’s club coach at the time - Richard Edgley, who’s an amazing man – got me involved as soon as he could,” continued Sarah.
“At the start, we always wanted to have indoor courts, but it wasn’t possible financially when I first joined.
“Then one day, we were approached by a local businessman, who agreed to put some money into the club to improve our facilities all-around which then allowed us to get those indoor courts!
“So, we went from a very little club – with four to five courts and a small clubhouse - to what we are now, a fully modernised and accessible club!”
Grantham has always had community at the forefront of its ethos, with the club striving to ensure that everyone has access to tennis, regardless of their skill level, ability or background.
“We’re a real community club,” added Sarah.
“Our tagline is ‘more than just a tennis club’.
“It’s about different age groups mixing together, so juniors and adults can be around each other learning those life skills.
“Tennis is great because it can be individual, so resilience and decision-making skills are developed.
“But then you’ve also got doubles and the tennis groups are just lots of fun.
“We have this great session on Saturday mornings called cardio tennis which is basically tennis to music!
“The beauty of it is you don’t have to be good at tennis, we just have fun and jump around with the music on!”
Disability inclusivity is another big focus for both Sarah and Grantham with the Club Manager explaining that tennis should be a sport with no boundaries.
“‘What is tennis?’ is the question I ask myself,” said Sarah.
“We’ve got a girl called Shannon who comes and if she connects her racket to the ball, that’s tennis to her.
“At Grantham we make tennis accessible for disabled players and anyone else that wants to get involved.
“We won the LTA Disability Club of the Year Award in 2018 because we’re very inclusive.
“Through Richard, we took on wheelchair tennis, learning disability tennis, walking tennis, a mental health project which runs every Wednesday morning and we’ve got also got an over 65’s section too.
“We’re also a local player development centre for minis tennis and we’re known as one of the top clubs in the region for minis.”
Like all sports clubs across the UK, coronavirus has led to set backs within the grassroots sporting community.
And with tennis being one of the sports returning to action, Sarah believes that it has the power to lift people’s spirit, after a testing couple of months.
“Obviously we’re still having to move things quite slowly back to some sort of normality due to coronavirus,” said Sarah.
“But we were really lucky being one of the first sports that’s been allowed to come back.
“What we’ve done, is we’ve given free tennis to people coming with family members, because normally we have a visitor’s fee. But because people could only play with their family we made it free to play.
“We just wanted to get people playing together. We want to be able to lift their spirits.
“It was quite a responsibility to know that we were one of the first sports back. It just shows how important it is for families just to get out and get moving again.
“Hopefully soon enough we’ll have everyone back on the court more regularly!”
Grantham Tennis Club’s normal club programme resumes in September. For more information, click here.
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