I am sitting watching the Littlest on the 2nd day of tennis camp at Andover Lawn Tennis Club. The sky is a clear pale blue, there is barely a breath of wind and the air is filled with birdsong, the sound of instructions being relayed to the youngest children as they do their drills, laughter and the chatter of parents talking over mugs of tea and coffee, occasionally remembering to see how their offspring are doing. It could be midsummer – the weather gods are definitely smiling on us, although it does make up for the shocking weather that we endured over the mid-term break in February.
The Tribe have been doing tennis camps and attending the Saturday mornings at Andover Lawn Tennis Club since 2006, other than our two years overseas – when we didn’t play any tennis at all as it was the one sport that the school’s PE coach didn’t like and the clubs were also prohibitively expensive for three children! Shame, considering the weather. But I digress.
Andover Lawn Tennis Club came into being in 1936 when the name was changed from Folly Tennis Club. At that time the courts were at Andover Cricket Club in Batchelors Barn Road. In 1945 the Club moved to the Drove Courts – two of the hard courts were on the exact spot as the current number 1 and 2 courts. When the land was sold in the early 1950s the Club became homeless and ended up using the Council’s Recreation Courts at Vigo Road. In 1967 membership was down and it took a letter to the local Andover Advertiser from then teenager Dot Crothall appealing for members to resurrect the Club. Dot remains a member to this day – the power of people power never fails to amaze me.
On 13 May 1968 the Constitution and Rules of the current Club were approved by the Club membership and play continued at the Recreational Ground. In 1976 the growth of the Club meant that more courts were needed. Coincidentally, the courts at the Drove were up for sale and with grants, loans and fundraising, they were bought in July. In 1978 a new clubhouse was built and opened. One of the trustees involved in this was Eric Chambers.
In 1992 when the clubhouse was extended it was named after Eric – the Eric Chambers Clubhouse. Eric was still heavily involved in the Club when the Tribe were playing – as well as playing himself, he was at the clubhouse every Saturday morning working in the kitchen or regaling everyone, adults and children alike, with very, very funny anecdotes. Eric passed away after a short illness in 2012 while we were in Dubai and I know that he is still missed very much by everyone.
Throughout the Club’s history, the Junior section has been incredibly important and in 2006 Andover was recognised as an accredited Mini Tennis and RAW tennis centre. This is what the Tribe have all started on and it has been run brilliantly by the Club under the incredibly hard working and dedicated Chairman, Margaret. In 2007 the coaching programme increased to include Junior Talent ID and Performance Squad both of which the Eldest was selected for. She did some LTA mini tournaments but no where near as many as some of the other children in her age group. But it was great training and the competition was (and still is!) fierce. In 2010 the Club finally got planning permission to move the Club to a new site in Balksbury – it had been an incredibly arduous process culminating in a visit from the Secretary of State’s Office (how ridiculous).
We are now in 2015 and Margaret and her team have worked tirelessly on the myriad of applications for the new Club. They will get there and there will be a fantastic new Club site and it will be hugely successful. And we are immensely grateful to everyone in the Club for the time and effort that they have put into this move. Although of course, it is continuing and at this point there are no funds to build a clubhouse. So, if there’s anyone out there looking for a great cause to put their money into … well, Andover Lawn Tennis Club would fit the bill.
As well as watching the Tribe move from red balls to orange to green and finally to yellow, we have watched other children grow up, gaining accreditation as coaches themselves as they go on to university, including tennis scholarships to US universities and gaining Referee awards.
The Tribe are taught by the three current main coaches, Martyn, George and Bash – Bash having been there since we first joined. Fun is a very important element in the whole coaching process. Margaret wants to instill a love of the game so that the children will still be playing (and loving it) in decades to come.
They have even encouraged the parents to get playing on Saturdays and I can now be found on court first thing on a Saturday rather than drinking coffee! The Tribe find this highly amusing – their encouragement is immense! Last year the Eldest began working towards becoming a Tennis Leader; this year the Boy has joined her in doing this. They now help with the training of the youngest classes. Watching them develop and blossom is a real privilege and we are fortunate that the Club runs such a successful Juniors programme.
And what a cracking way to spend a few days during a sunny, warm Easter holiday.