David Rawlings, a dedicated and long-serving member at Cound & District Tennis Club, received the lifetime achievement award as the Shropshire winners of the annual Lawn Tennis Association Awards were announced.
This year’s ceremony – recognising the efforts of the county’s tennis community during a challenging 2020 – was held virtually owing to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Tennis Shropshire vice-chair Fiona Jones paid tribute to the winners in a special video presentation, which also featured Tennis Shropshire president Keith Smith and chair Simon Jones.
Sarah Downes, Tennis Shropshire’s LTA Tennis Awards co-ordinator, said: “Congratulations to all of the winners and to everyone else nominated.
“It really does mean so much to people to know that someone has taken the time to put them forward for an award.
“As always, it was wonderful to read through all the entries and hear of the outstanding contributions of so many individuals, clubs and organisations around the county.
“The pandemic means it clearly continues to be a very challenging time, but the efforts of so many brilliant volunteers helped ensure that when lockdown restrictions have not been in place that it’s still possible to enjoy playing tennis in a safe environment.”
Held in collaboration with the LTA, nominations are invited each year from around Shropshire to highlight the county’s unsung tennis heroes.
The awards recognise people involved in the sport who dedicate so much time and effort to helping others.
County awards were presented this time in 10 different categories, with the success of David Rawlings part of a double celebration for Cound & District Tennis Club, as they were also named as Shropshire’s club of the year.
David has enjoyed a long association with Cound, dating back more than 50 years, when he was one of its original members. He has served as chair, secretary, treasurer, groundskeeper and as a team captain.
He has been responsible for mentoring and supporting youth coaches, been involved with the upkeep of the club, played a part in supporting funding for local school children to experience tennis, and even cooked at the club’s barbecues.
David has been at the heart of the club for many years, devoting so much time and effort, earning the respect and affection of fellow members.
David’s dedication, along with many club colleagues, also played a key role in Cound being selected as Shropshire’s club of the year for 2020.
During difficult times over the past year, Cound managed to impressively increase its membership by around 30 per cent thanks to a number of well received initiatives.
They opened their courts to the wider community through a pay and play arrangement, while Cound officials ensured regular contact was maintained with all its members during lockdown.
There was also awards success at the double for Baschurch Tennis Club, with Sarah Hardie named as club development coach of the year and Taylor Youens selected as the county’s young volunteer of the year.
Sarah has been heavily involved in a host of club activities throughout lockdown, including running online quizzes for junior members, while she continued to be very creative in running coaching sessions when permitted. Sarah has also been instrumental in the development of young coaches.
Taylor gives plenty of time and energy to Baschurch as an enthusiastic young volunteer. He constantly makes himself available to support the club’s coaches working with other youngsters. Taylor is renowned as being kind, patient and always helpful.
Nigel Stonier, chair of Woore Tennis Club, was named as Shropshire’s volunteer of the year.
He provided leadership throughout the year and made time to call all of his club’s large membership five times during lockdown. He was also responsible for instigating a fund raising event which raised around £3,000 for club funds.
The Shrewsbury Club’s Adam Wharf was the winner in the performance coach of the year category, well deserved recognition for an experienced coach who is always looking to improve his own knowledge by adding new dimensions to the service he offers players.
An inspirational leader of coaching at county level and always keen to support teams when they are in action, Adam coaches players of all ages and abilities.
Wrekin & Telford Tennis Community received the community and parks award following a year in which they managed to turn a very difficult situation into a strong positive.
The club’s home courts were not available last summer owing to lockdown, but they showed creativity to find park courts where they could play and linked in with coaches that were able to support players.
Steps were taken to ensure the club’s juniors could continue to play, while a number of other youngsters, newcomers to tennis, were encouraged to try tennis for the first time.
Simon Haddleton was named as official of the year, with his roles over the last 12 months including running the successful Battle of Shropshire, a new, fun team event, which was recognised as competition of the year.
Simon gives so much time to enable people to play competitively, with his passion and love for what he does always shining through. He is a very reassuring and encouraging presence for children often taking part in a competition for the first time and is a real asset to Shropshire.
Inspired by watching the Battle of the Brits on television last summer, Simon felt it would be a good idea to run the Battle of Shropshire for the first time.
A week-long event, it proved hugely popular, attracting 120 entries of all ages, with two teams taking part in a completely new format at The Shrewsbury Club. Such was its success, the Battle of Shropshire is now set to become an annual fixture in the county’s tennis calendar.
The education award was presented to Ellesmere College, a school recognised for its excellence at providing pupils with the opportunity to play tennis. They managed to keep tennis going by making sure children could still play safely.
All of the Shropshire winners will now go forward to represent the county later in the year in the regional awards for the Midlands and, if further success comes their way, potentially also the national awards.
Last year’s national awards delivered unprecedented success for the county, with Keith Smith and Alex Cleland named as runners-up in the lifetime achievement and official of the year categories respectively.
The Shropshire County Championships – the county’s third regional winner – also featured in the national ceremony, which was hosted virtually by Leon Smith, Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain.
Tennis Shropshire chair Simon Jones said: “These awards have become an annual part of the tennis calendar. They give the opportunity for people to show appreciation to volunteers or coaches who have helped grow the game of tennis, either within your club, the community or the county.
“I think we will all agree that 2020 proved to be a most difficult year for everyone. Whilst tennis spent most of the year in lockdown, this then created a lot of demand and a lot of pressure on our volunteers and coaches when it was able to resume, with much work going on behind the scenes at the county’s clubs.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone – volunteers, coaches and everyone else – who has supported tennis and supported Tennis Shropshire, to get through the most challenging of times.”
Pictured: Nigel Stonier, the chair at Woore Tennis Club, received Shropshire’s volunteer of the year award.