National tennis charity Tennis For Free has announced its 2017 awards and one Bury coach has netted an honour, recognising him as one of the best in the country.
Paul Jepson from the Tennis For Free (TFF) St Mary’s Park site in Prestwich has won the title of ‘Tennis For Free Coach Of The Year 2017’.
Announcing the awards, the judges’ citation read: “Paul has spearheaded one of the largest attendance bases any TFF site has seen in just a few months of operation. With a total of 273 enrolled players creating a total of 445 attendances in just three months, from an October launch with poor weather, is testament to Paul’s infectious personality.”
Receiving the award, Paul, from Oldham said: “It’s an honour to receive this award and I’m very humbled.I’m passionate about tennis and about this site. I started played tennis on a park court and the game has been my life since then culminating in a career. We have a wonderful tennis community full of amazingly friendly, funny and passionate people who attend Tennis For Free every week whatever the weather and I will work even harder now to make sure we get more and more people playing this great game across the area.”
Paul has been coaching for 15 years starting as a Community Tennis Coach in his home town. He then moved onto various indoor centres before setting up his own business and providing coaching across various clubs. Interestingly, Paul started his tennis journey at a park, just like many of Tennis For Free’s attendees. He started aged seven at Stamford Park in Ashton-Under-Lyme.
Tennis For Free is a UK charity which aims to create healthy, vibrant local tennis communities for free on public park courts creating new players of all ages and backgrounds. It is partnered with the LTA and joins the local authority to create two hours of free tennis every week at normally under-used tennis courts targeting hundreds of local people to enjoy a new sport to improve their fitness but also create new social and friendship groups.Tennis For Free supporters include Judy Murray (mother of World No1 Andy), BBC tennis commentator Andrew Castle and ex Grand Slam winner Pat Cash.
Paul Jessop, Tennis For Free CEO, said: “The judges found this year’s awards particularly difficult to mark because of all the amazing stories. But Paul shone above others for two reasons - his amazing attendance statistics during the autumn and winter months and his positive and friendly personality - he is just so infectious. We celebrate everyone’s achievements and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved at TFF - coaches, volunteers, supporters and of course the players.
“Looking ahead to 2018 we are aiming to open our 100th site this year and also reach another milestone – registering our 100,000th player. That means that we have introduced 100,000 people to the sport of tennis which is something that we are very proud of.”
John Willis, Tennis For Free Regional Development Officer, said: “My congratulations to Paul and to everyone at St Mary’s Park. It’s a super site with energetic and friendly coaches and a real community feel – exactly what Tennis For Free is all about.”
Councillor Andrea Simpson, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Bury Council, said: “The Tennis For Free programme is a great way for families to try out the sport. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s an integral part of our community tennis development programme and the court improvements at St Mary’s Park.
“Paul’s efforts in making the programme here in Bury such a fantastic success are to be applauded and many congratulations to him for winning this much deserved award.”
Tennis For Free has plans to bring more than 175,000 new tennis players, 2,000 coaches and 5,000 volunteers into the sport over the next five years. The charity, which runs free community tennis sessions at public parks across the UK, has a new partnership agreement with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and a new funding circle of private individuals. The new partnership will boost the network of free tennis schemes by hundreds nationwide, launching in Wales and Northern Ireland as well as increasing its sites in England and Scotland, making it a truly national community led programme.
Tennis For Free, which works with local authorities and tennis clubs up and down the country, currently funds around 200 professional tennis coaches who are supported by volunteers to offer weekly sessions to people of all ages and backgrounds at its 50 sites.Everything is free for participants - equipment is provided and there are no court hire costs. It will also bring more people, especially from disadvantaged communities, into physical activity and reinvigorate under-used local parks.
Tennis For Free runs at St Mary’s Park every Sunday between 2-4pm. You can register for Tennis For Free on www.stmarysparktennis.co.uk For more information visit www.tennisforfree.com.You can also follow Tennis For Free on twitter @tennisforfree and on Facebook.