Tennis players match fit after effort to save facility

Members of Stocksbridge Tennis Club,Linden Cres,Stocksbridge, taking part in a sponsored tennis rally to raise funds to replace its courts or the club may have to fold. Pictured in fancy dress is Mike Haywood
Members of Stocksbridge Tennis Club,Linden Cres,Stocksbridge, taking part in a sponsored tennis rally to raise funds to replace its courts or the club may have to fold. Pictured in fancy dress is Mike Haywood
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They’ve rallied round in more ways than one - thanks to a huge communal effort, Stocksbridge Tennis Club is on the mend, as Star reporter Rachael Clegg finds out

WITH its dug-up courts, cement mixers and diggers, Stocksbridge Tennis Club hardly looks like the setting for a tennis match.

But, actually, the unsightly scene is a good thing.

Thanks to the camaraderie of the club’s members and the community spirit of residents, Stocksbridge Tennis Club is about to be made – quite literally – match fit.

But that’s not to say the club is only for competitive players.

Martin Jackson has been involved with the club since his son started having lessons there 12 years ago.

He says: “Tennis is great even for weak players and this club welcomes all players – whatever standard.

“Stocksbridge Tennis Club is a home-grown club. The ethos is to involve everybody and many of our members got involved when their children got involved.”

The club’s intake reflects this. The age of its members ranges from four to 80 and its budding players come from all walks of life.

“We have 135 members at the moment. Children as young as four come to play mini-tennis and we have an OAP session too.”

Yet this facility – which has been at the heart of Stocksbridge since it was founded in 1926 – has been in dire need of repair for several years.

The club’s courts are in poor condition, which makes it difficult for elderly players, children’s lessons and also means the club cannot compete in matches.

But returning the courts to their former glory isn’t cheap. The revamp – which includes floodlights and new court surfaces – will cost £45,000.

Thanks to its members and the community, the club is well on its way to meeting the £45,000 target.

“We’re just about £5,000 short,” says Martin. “We’re hoping we can attract people who want to be patrons of the club and donate larger sums of money.”

The money was raised through various fundraising events, including a sponsored rally and a quiz night. “We’ve also had a local Co-op grant and a loan from the Yorkshire Lawn Tennis Association,” says Martin.

But, of course, the tennis club isn’t the only sports facility fighting for its survival in Stocksbridge. Local residents are also trying to save Stocksbridge Leisure Centre after Sheffield Council announced it was withdrawing its £400,000 subsidy.

“I’m appalled and angry about that,” says Martin. “These facilities are so important to Stocksbridge people.”

The renovation work at Stocksbridge Tennis Club will, Martin believes, attract more members, and raise more funds for the club.

And to keep costs down, much of the work is being done by the members themselves.

“We’re cutting the fences down and breaking up all the old steps ourselves,” Martin says, clad in workmen’s boots.

“We are a struggling tennis club as we’ve been turned down by the lottery and the Olympic legacy doesn’t seem interested in tennis.

“But this is a great facility and so many many people have been turned on to tennis as a result of coming here.

“You don’t have to be good to play at this club – it’s enough just to enjoy a game.”

One member whose life has been transformed by the club is Matthew Taylor, aged 14, who is now seeded 14th in the LTA’s Yorkshire tennis rankings. He says: “I’ve always played lots of sports but this is the one that I’ve kept up with. I am serious about tennis now and want to take it a lot further.”

And Matthew’s not the only member of his family Stocksbridge Tennis Club has converted.

His mum, Sue, 44, is also a keen player and active supporter of the club’s campaign to save its courts, and Matthew’s grandmother, Christie Batty, 69, has been converted into a keen tennis player.

Sue explains: “Mum only started playing a year ago and I started when Matthew was four or five. The club’s about ordinary people joining in.”

“But Matthew is committed to tennis. He recently played at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton and Laura Robson clapped at one of his shots and he was thrilled. Tennis is his life.”

Work has started on the resurfacing of Stocksbridge Tennis Club’s courts even though the club hasn’t quite reached its target. But Martin is optimistic.

“We’ll do more fundraising. We need all the help we can get to meet the target but there are always reasons to stop you from doing things - sometimes you just have to do them.”

Stocksbridge Tennis Club welcome budding players.

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