Sheffield park scheme nets national tennis award

Ryan Bagshaw receives the Best New Site Award from Tennis For Free CEO Paul Jessop
Ryan Bagshaw receives the Best New Site Award from Tennis For Free CEO Paul Jessop

National tennis charity Tennis For Free (TFF) has announced its 2017 awards and one Sheffield tennis group has netted an honour, recognising it as one of the best in the country. Hillsborough Park has won the title of ‘Tennis For Free Best New UK Site Of The Year 2017’.

Announcing the awards, the judges’ citation read: Hillsborough Park is a fantastic collaboration of partners all forming to create a fantastic TFF environment. Sheffield City Council, the LTA and Parks Tennis CIC have all gone the extra mile to create a vibrant TFF session that has seen 467 attendances on TFF sessions since it launched in late Summer. In addition, one member was also nominated as Tennis For Free ‘Player of the Year’. Alan Williams reached the final three, narrowly missing out on the top honour.

Receiving the award, Lead Coach at Hillsborough Park, Ryan Bagshaw, said: “It’s an honour to receive this award on behalf of everyone. We have a wonderful tennis community, full of amazingly friendly, funny and passionate people who attend Tennis For Free every week, whatever the weather. Our journey to create this scheme in the last few years has been incredible and I’m very proud to be part of it.”

Councillor Mary Lea, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for culture, parks and leisure, added: “This is fantastic news and testimony to the hard work put in by everyone to ensure that local people have the chance to play sport, at no cost. Hillsborough is so well used that we decided to keep the coaching going in winter when we normally shut.

“Tennis is an enjoyable way to get fit and everyone who plays helps us move closer to our goal of making Sheffield the most active city by 2020. We are known as the Outdoor City and receiving this recognition, and an award last December from the Lawn Tennis Association for best community venue in Yorkshire for Millhouses Park, means Sheffield will soon be known as the city of tennis.”

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. Hillsborough is a new site for 2017 and because of its high weekly attendance and community spirit it shone so brightly. It was a close call and we celebrate everyone’s achievements. 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 everyone at Hillsborough Park. It’s a super site with energetic and friendly coaches and a real community feel – exactly what Tennis For Free is all about.”

Hillsborough Park was close to a double celebration after regular Alan Williams just missed out on another TFF award. Alan was nominated as ‘Best Player Of The Year’ for being instrumental in setting up the TFF scheme at Hillsborough Park. Aside from being a key member of the newly established tennis community at the site, he has gone over and above his employed Sheffield council position as Green Space Project Officer to get the scheme embedded and running successfully week on week.

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 Hillsborough Park every Saturday between 10am-12noon. You can register for Tennis For Free by Clicking here

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You can also follow Tennis For Free on twitter @tennisforfree and on Facebook.