Serving up fun and frustration: What it's like to be in a tennis club
Anyone for tennis? Every summer Wimbledon fever sweeps the nation as we watch the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray battle it out for glory.
For two weeks we will be glued to all of the action as the ball flies backwards and forwards over the net on Centre Court during the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
But for many fanatics of the game, it’s a major part of their lives all year round and that’s particularly true for father and daughter Mike and Emily White.
Come rain or shine, they can be found on one of the eight all-weather courts at Wollaston Lawn Tennis Club hitting a yellow ball over the net. “Tennis is addictive. It can be frustrating too but also fun and you never play the same way twice.
“We play all year round – the only thing that stops us is snow. Even when it’s raining, we come down to play,” says 53-year-old Mike who works in engineering.
“It’s a good way to keep active and when you are playing, you don’t have to think about other stuff, just tennis,” adds 17-year-old Emily.
They are both members of the tennis club, nestled away off Prestwood Drive, just outside Wollaston, which has been going strong since 1965 and has more than 225 players on the books.
“It’s a hidden gem really because not many people know we are here. It’s in a great setting and it’s a relaxing place to play,” Mike, who is joint treasurer for the club, tells us.
Emily first caught the tennis bug when she signed up for lessons at the club with Baseline Tennis Academy, run by head coach Richard Cartwright, in 2007.
Seeing her having so much fun inspired dad Mike, who had previously played badminton, to also pick up a racket and he’s been playing regularly since 2008.
One thing they both have in common with tennis legends such as Greg Rusedski, John McEnroe and Spanish champion Nadal is that they also play left-handed.
“We are both left-handed and it means people don’t like playing against us because we hit the ball differently and that makes it harder for them to react,” explains Mike.
Emily, who attends Haybridge Sixth Form College in Hagley, has begun working towards her coaching qualifications and has already passed the level 1 stage. The club runs junior group sessions, spanning all ages and abilities, which she helps out with on Saturday mornings.
“I enjoy helping to run the activities. I’m hoping to get my level 2 coaching qualification later this year,” she tells us.
“The junior section is very important because it’s how we encourage more people to start playing and how we develop the club’s membership,” adds Mike.
The pair, who live in Stourbridge, say they feel lucky to have such ‘great facilities’ on their doorstep.
The club’s eight courts includes two comprising artificial clay, simulating the French courts of Roland Garros.
They were introduced in 2014 following a £130,000 investment which also included two synthetic grass courts, which are said to be faster and offer a lower bounce.
The four remaining courts are made from a slightly different synthetic grass.
They are all flood-lit allowing tennis to be played right up to 11pm at night, seven days of the week. Tennis balls are provided free of charge and because of the high number of courts available, players can normally just turn up when they feel like a game without booking ahead.
There is also a social side as the clubhouse offers, in addition to changing rooms and showers, a fully-licensed bar, function room, which is also available to hire, table tennis, pool and free wi-fi for members.
“The courts and the lights really are second to none, they are certainly some of the best in the country. The club has really invested in the facilities during the past few years including upgrading the floodlights on four of the courts. The new lights are very powerful, it’s like playing in daylight,” Mike tells us.
The club welcomes players who want to compete in the leagues and tournaments as well as those who just want to hit the court for fun and fitness.
There are currently four summer men’s teams, three ladies summer teams as well as teams in the winter leagues playing against clubs in Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
“When you join the club, you can either compete in the competitions or you can just play for enjoyment. It’s very relaxed,” says Mike.
Every year, members can also take part in the club championships with men’s and ladies singles as well as men’s, ladies and mixed doubles and there are junior competitions along with a finals day normally held at the start of September.
Both Mike and Emily say they enjoy being in a tennis club for many reasons including the support members give each other and the chance to socialise and meet new friends.
“You get to meet a lot of new people. Everybody pulls together when you need them and there is always somebody around to help,” says Mike. Every person involved in running the club is a volunteer, and we’re always desperate for new volunteers. New members are always welcome and there are different sessions available like cardio tennis for people to try.”
- If Wimbledon inspires you to pick up a racket then Wollaston Tennis Club is holding an open day on July 7. People are welcome to pop along to chat to members anytime between 2pm and 5pm and have a go themselves with equipment provided. To find out more visit www.wollastontennis.co.uk or follow the club on Twitter @WollastonTennis