Back in 2011, it would have been difficult to envisage fielding 29 teams with just five full-time courts available, two of which were outdoor hard courts which couldn’t be used all year round. “Nothing disheartened me more than when, coaching on all three indoor courts, a pupil would peer through the Tennis Centre door and I would see the look of disappointment on their face, knowing they had nowhere else to play tennis”, says Damian, looking back on his early days. “Trying to run both a College and commercial programme on just three courts was really tough.”
That all changed five years ago. Following a successful pilot scheme run on two newly renovated and floodlit hard courts which facilitated an extension to the commercial activities, six state-of-the-art clay courts were built, making Bradfield one of the premier centres for tennis across all of Berkshire and one of the biggest for schools tennis in the country.
PUPILS HAVE ACHIEVED GREAT THINGS FOR THE COLLEGE.
It has been a game-changer for Damian and his team. “The expansion allowed us to create a tennis hub, an anchor around which pupils can find all our major facilities and coaches. Tennis pupils now have a sense of belonging while we have a space in which the whole coaching team has become a cohesive unit to better serve our community.”
The combination of better facilities and dedication of the coaches has enabled the creation of a performance pathway, for those committed pupils who are looking to excel and compete throughout their time at the College, while also providing for pupils who want to improve their game and have a taste of representing the school in the sport. “It has inspired pupils across all year groups and abilities to flourish”, adds Damian. “Pupils who play tennis and like the sport, but not necessarily in the performance arena, have achieved great things for the College.”