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Gidea Park tennis club' success takes young generations to next level

PUBLISHED: 15:00 14 August 2016

Matthew Doe, 14, competes in international games and trains at Gidea Park tennis club

Matthew Doe, 14, competes in international games and trains at Gidea Park tennis club

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A community tennis club is coaching the next generation of first-class players to hit some balls at the highest competition levels.

Competition success

Shining on the court, here are some of the young talents coming out of Gidea Park Lawn Tennis Club.

Matthew Doe, 14, of Brentwood, is in the middle of a season of international games, having recently competed in Bermuda.

A tennis player since the age of three, Matthew has swept a host of titles including Essex County winner, Devonshire Park winner and Windsor open champion.

Louis Ridding, 16, of Romford, who “couldn’t hold a racket at the age of 12”, according to Kirk, is now training to become a coach.

Jude Butler, 10, Kirk’s son, tops the ranking at county level in his age group and James Stanley, nine, is number one in the eastern region.

Six men’s teams take part in competitions, two of them are playing in division one at county level.

Hidden behind high hedges in the middle of a residential area, it would be easy to walk past Gidea Park Lawn Tennis Club without noticing it.

But the Gidea Close centre is a popular hotspot for many in the borough, whether they want to leisurely hit some balls, lead an active social life or get serious about tennis.

Built more than 70 years ago, the club still boasts its original character, while on the courts talented and ambitious young people are making it thrive.

This success is the result of the hard work and passion of head coach Kirk Butler, who joined in 2006.

At the time, there was a strong adult programme, but less than 30 junior players and it was getting “worse and worse”.

But the coach, whose own tennis career began at the club when he was eight years old, was determined to recruit young players to ensure its future.

“Thinking about the future of the club, getting juniors in was crucial.

“Now we can keep pushing the kids through and they are doing well,” he said.

Today, 180 young people regularly play on the Gidea Park courts and their results have propelled the club to the top of the league in Essex.

Among the 30 youngsters taking part in a summer camp are some who boast an impressive list of titles at international, national and county level.

His pride at the players’ achievements has led Kirk to take a trip down memory lane.

“I grew up with the club – it’s my second home. I wanted to see the club do well and what has happened is unbelievable and it’s getting better,” he said.

“They not only compete and grow up here but they are all friends and the older ones are mixing with the younger ones.

“The younger ones absolutely love it and look up to the big boys. There is a great team atmosphere,” he added.

Every Saturday, the club transforms into a buzzing social hub, with parents enjoying a chat at the cafe while children are taking part in the lessons.

“People come for that social side as well. If they like the place they often want to stay,” said Kirk.

With simple facilities, the tennis club’s pull factor is its coaching, explained Matthew Doe’s mum Clare Perry.

“A lot of it depends on the coach.

“Without Kirk, the club would have fallen. It doesn’t need all-singing-and-dancing fluffy facilities,” she said.

“This is the best the club has done without a doubt – this is seriously fantastic and, absolutely, we are proud.”

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