In a country where the presence of Andy Murray and his brother Jamie has galvanised interest in tennis, you would expect the university Tennis Club to be strong. However, a chat with President Regi Monroe and Vice President Tim Hyman revealed that the club is far stronger than I had imagined.
These two students have seven years of Tennis Club committee experience between them and have therefore seen their fair share of upheaval. One of the main sources of this change is the social aspect of the club, which now has 60 to 70 people attending social tennis sessions on Fridays and Sundays. There are two committee members at every session to provide coaching, advice and general friendly support.
Ms Monroe said that the sizable attendance at sessions is a huge improvement from when she first became a committee member. This increased level of participation is also reflected in the club’s social scene. The balance of squad players and social members is now much more 50/50, which has made the general environment of the club healthier and more like a family. This change is due to the creation of a new social representative who acts as the intermediary between BUCS players and social members.
The coaching offered during social sessions is representative of the wider coaching provided by members of the club. Much of this teaching takes place is in the local area. For example, the club offers four weekly sessions for students from St Leonards, Madras and Lawhead Primary. The concept of outreach work is something that all Saints Sports clubs are trying to push, but the work done by the Tennis Club is definitely on a par with some of the best done at our University. Last year, the Tennis Club created two new positions within the committee. These positions are focused on outreach and ensuring the work done outside of competitive fixtures and social tennis is under the remit of specific individuals.
All of this internal revamping and development has been accompanied by excellent results on the court to start off the 2016-17 BUCS season. St Andrews is incredibly privileged to put forward eight competitive teams, the equivalent of Edinburgh and Stirling. The women’s first team currently sits at the top of the Scottish 1A division after an unbeaten start to the season. The team has lost just four matches across four games. The men’s first team has not made quite as good of a start and is currently sitting at fifth. However, as Ms Monroe and Mr Hyman point out, the men’s team includes two freshers with little to no experience playing doubles. The presence of freshers within the men’s team is incredibly important because the group has previously had a reputation for being dominated by post-grads.
Aside from BUCS commitments and outreach work, the Tennis Club also has a number of big plans for the rest of the year. Next on the agenda is the first SSS mixed doubles tournament of the year, which has previously proven to be a huge success. The tournament is a very sociable experience and features students from multiple Scottish universities. Last year, there were over 90 participants across eight courts. During the spring semester, the club will focus on charity work with a tournament held in honour of Macmillan Cancer Care. There will be minimal entry fees, and the tournament will be open to locals, club members, social members and students from local schools. More details will be released in due course, but just speaking to Ms Monroe and Mr Hyman gave the clear impression that the tournament will be a great event.
The original purpose of my interview with the committee members was to discuss the tennis centre being built as part of the Sports Centre’s redevelopment programme. I had believed the centre was due for completion in January 2017, but that date has provisionally been moved back to September 2017.
When asked whether the changed date was a disruption to the club’s plans, Ms Monroe merely laughed and said not at all. The centre was originally scheduled to open in 2015, so delays have become the norm. When finished, the centre will feature four outdoor courts and four indoor ones. The creation of indoor courts is something Mr Hyman and Ms Monroe both said will revolutionise the club.
The presence of indoor courts will make training more accessible during the winter months and almost certainly lead to a profound revamping of the way training is run. The club currently has over 300 members and roughly 100 on the waiting list. With indoor courts at their disposal, members could completely expand their training and coaching schedule to far more than the current weekly training sessions. An increase in facilities, court time and general accessibility is something Ms Monroe is relying on to double the club’s membership close to 600.
The other huge benefit of building the tennis centre would be attracting students who are making their applications to university. Currently, the resources at St Andrews are not enough to incentivize county tennis players and above to apply, but with indoor courts and the ability to play throughout the year, the University will be able to attract top players and make BUCS performances even better.
The Tennis Club has been doing some excellent work in the last year or so, and much of this work has gone largely unreported. The club appears to be going from strength to strength, and that can only be beneficial for sport at the University.