Grass Roots Club has winning formula for juniors

Cleckheaton Lawn Tennis Club, in West Yorkshire, has found the elusive formula required to attract and develop junior tennis players. Year on year this small grass roots club, with simple facilities, attracts dozens of juniors looking to learn a new sport. More importantly it retains them and this has led to unprecedented success in recent years.

The club has entered junior teams in their local league for over 25 years. They have won junior titles in the past but 2019 saw Cleckheaton Juniors win the U15 Bradford and District Championship for a third year running. The Bradford league is not small. There are 30 clubs including a number of large organisations that are known nationally – Ilkley, Heaton and Skipton to name a few. However – It is Cleckheaton, with its small wooden pavilion, two hard and two shale courts, that turns high quality junior teams out week after week, year after year, and at a number of age ranges.

The club values its family members. Junior coaching, holiday tennis camps and links to local schools are important items of business for its committee’s planning meetings. The importance of retaining a coach at the club is one of its highest priorities. The club’s long serving president, Robert Clayton, is at the centre of this philosophy. Having coached for many years himself, and he is still putting in the hours, he ensures that this aspect of the club is never devalued.

Simon Newton is the club’s head coach and has been with Cleckheaton for 19 years. He is key to the current success. He gives his time willingly, has an excellent rapport with the juniors and their parents and, of course, he is an excellent coach. He ensures tennis is fun and an enjoyable experience for all, while always focusing on developing the key skills that will make his band of followers effective and competitive tennis players. Importantly, he has trained up a team of support coaches to enable the growing group of juniors to get as much input as possible. Simon also is fully involved in others areas of the club. He is a league player, a member of the committee and attends all social and fund raising events.

Retention into open age is always difficult but a good percentage of the boys and girls have gone on to represent the club in the open age teams. It is particularly satisfying to hear stories of those that leave home and go on to further education playing in their University Tennis teams and not dropping the sport for other attractions and activities. Captains of Oxford College tennis teams and players at Loughborough, Nottingham and Sheffield Universities are proud to say they are from Cleckheaton Lawn Tennis Club!

Recent successful teams –

Bradford & District U15 Tennis Champion 2017 Georgina, Jenna, Lucy, Joe and Eleanor

                                          Bradford & District U15 Tennis Champions 2018                                         Thomas, Kyle, Ebbi and Lucy

                                         Bradford & District U15 Tennis Champions 2018                                         Thomas, Kyle, Ebbi and Isaac

                                          Bradford & District U15 Tennis Champions 2019                                         Alex, Oliver, Charlie, Jack, Ebbi and Thomas

From left – Simon Newton – Coach, Emily – successful junior, Robert Clayton – Club President