Keith Smith is Tennis Shropshire’s new president, succeeding Jilly Broadbent, who enjoyed three years in the role.
That’s the only change to the county tennis association’s officers following this year’s AGM, which was hosted by Simon Jones, the Tennis Shropshire chair, and held via Zoom.
Keith will bring a wealth of experience to the role of county president.
He joined Newport’s Boughey Gardens Tennis Club in 1958, serving as both chairman and secretary, while he was also head coach for 43 years, with an impressive number of junior players involved at the club.
Having represented the county as a player, his many other roles include producing the Shropshire handbook for five years, and also coaching the county’s boys squad for more than 20 years.
Keith was awarded an MBE in 2004 in recognition of his contribution to tennis and also to Newport’s business community.
He was runner-up in the prestigious LTA Tennis Awards last year, being selected in the top three nationally in the lifetime achievement category, after earlier winning the Midlands prize.
Tennis Shropshire chair Simon said: “Keith has so much experience within tennis in the county in a number of guises, so he will be a valuable member of the trustees committee and will be a wonderful president for Tennis Shropshire.
“We thank Jilly Broadbent, who was an extremely popular president during her three years in the role, and I consider myself very fortunate that Jilly was president for two of my three years as chair.
“Jilly will now have a new role as club liaison officer, which will see her liaise with the county’s clubs, so I’m pleased that she will remain actively involved.”
Simon also acknowledged the contribution of Merill Holt, who has stepped down from Tennis Shropshire’s trustees, highlighting her dedication over many years.
“I’m pleased that Merill will continue to be involved and will still be active in working groups,” he said.
Reflecting on the AGM, Simon added: “It was about letting the members know what we did in 2020 and what we are planning for 2021, subject to Covid restrictions.”
Through his chair’s report, Simon told members attending the AGM that Tennis Shropshire had been successful in being granted charitable status: “This has meant the introduction of the Tennis Shropshire Trustees Committee, which will replace the Executive Committee,” he said.
“Achieving charitable status would not have been possible without the commitment of both Bob Kerr and Mike Jones, and I thank them both for their patience in continuing to pursue this for the county.”
The delivery of tennis during 2020 had, Simon said, been affected by Covid-19, with Tennis Shropshire following both Government and LTA guidelines in cancelling a number of events throughout the year, including the annual County Championships.
But it was possible for a new week-long fun team event – The Battle of Shropshire – to be played, which proved popular, attracting 120 entries of all ages and it’s now set to become an annual event.
Thanks were extended at the AGM to Simon Haddleton, Adam Wharf and the team of coaches involved with the restart of Tennis Shropshire’s junior county training programme.
Elsewhere, working in conjunction with We Do Tennis, Tennis Shropshire opened a Parks Tennis Programme, held across three parks in the Telford area, which offered coaching to people who had either never played tennis before or had not played for a long time. Aimed at both adults and juniors, the sessions were well subscribed.
Tennis Shropshire chair Simon added: “Tennis would normally use the grass court season in June to promote our sport, but with this being cancelled, including Wimbledon, this opportunity was missed for 2020.
“However, wanting to remain positive, and with tennis being identified as one sport that was deemed to be safe, we were able to open back up in May with restrictions.
“This allowed us to re-open our clubs and venues, which saw an increase in new membership, especially from families who were new to tennis.
“Through this period, Tennis Shropshire supported clubs and coaches in the county, without whom we do not have a sport.”
A coach mentoring programme, headed by Adam Wharf, with the aim to develop the progression of coaches, was launched in January 2020, producing extremely positive feedback.
Covid-19 meant that Tennis Shropshire’s disability programme had to be postponed, however it was possible to restart well-attended wheelchair tennis sessions in June.
Meanwhile, after many years running what is now known as the National League for junior players, Bob Higgins stepped down from the role, with his contribution acknowledged by the Tennis Shropshire chair.
“Bob has played a major role in supporting tennis in Shropshire for many years,” said Simon. “His actions and selfless commitment have undoubtedly resulted in many juniors from all backgrounds having the opportunity to engage in competition at all levels.
“I would like to thank Bob for all his support. Moving forward, Simon Haddleton has agreed to take on the organisation of the National League, and I am sure he will continue with this great work.”
Simon paid tribute during the AGM to Shropshire’s former LTA president Cathie Sabin and her husband John, and also to Janet Dawes, a long-time member of Alveley Tennis Club, who sadly passed away in 2020.
He said: “Cathie was and still is an inspiration to us all, and a lot of the good things we are seeing today, for example the LTA Tennis Awards, have come from the legacy that Cathie has left.
“In August, we also lost Janet Dawes, who was a long-time member of Alveley Tennis Club. Janet was well known to many people across the county and inspired a lot of children to play tennis.
“Both Cathie and Janet are the heartbeat of tennis and, whilst they are no longer with us, they will live long in the memory of tennis in Shropshire.”
Simon highlighted Shropshire’s success in the annual LTA Tennis Awards, with the county providing three of the regional winners for the Midlands in Keith Smith (lifetime achievement), Alex Cleland (official of the year) and Shropshire County Championships (tournament of the year).
Keith and Alex were also named runners-up nationally in their categories.
Simon reflected: “This was a very proud moment for Tennis Shropshire, having won three of the ten regional awards, and being so well represented in the national awards, which were held virtually via YouTube and presented by Leon Smith.
“Along with this, Bob Higgins was recognised in receiving the LTA Meritorious Award, following in the recent footsteps of Clive Knight, Merill Holt and Liz Boyle.
“Sarah Downes continues to represent Shropshire on the LTA Awards regional panel and we are extremely grateful for all her efforts in pulling this together.”
Tennis Shropshire has worked with all the county’s clubs to ensure they are up to date with their safeguarding policies.
Simon added: “This is something that is extremely important, especially with the new LTA venue registration process. This task has now been completed and I would like to express my thanks to Ian Brett and Bob Kerr for all their efforts in working with all our venues to ensure they meet all the necessary safeguarding requirements.
“It is important to highlight that in 2021 the LTA are looking to introduce that all Level 2 coaches will have to be accredited to enable venues to register.”
Simon concluded his report as chair by telling members: “This last year has been challenging for everyone due to Covid-19 and let’s not forget the floods, which also hit a number of our clubs at the start of the year.
“We have all faced difficult periods throughout 2020, but our fabulous volunteers across the county have all risen to these challenges and have selflessly given up their time freely and devoted their energy for the benefit of others.
“As we go into 2021, tennis in Shropshire remains in a very healthy position, but I know we will have more obstacles to overcome in the first quarter of 2021 before we can hopefully get back to some form of normality, delivering tennis in the way that we enjoy.
“I would also like to express my appreciation to the Tennis Shropshire Executive and Management Committee for all their dedication, enthusiasm, and support.
“I will never get tired of repeating this, but as chair I feel so fortunate to be part of a county that has such a wonderful group of volunteers and coaches who give so much time to support tennis across Shropshire.”
Tennis Shropshire Officers
President: Keith Smith
Chair: Simon Jones
Vice-chair: Fiona Jones
LTA Councillor: Bob Kerr
Honorary treasurer: Keith Taylor
County secretary: Sharon Parrish
Captain ladies county team: Holly Mowling
Captain men’s county team: Alex Parry
Pictured: Keith Smith is Tennis Shropshire’s new president.