I started playing tennis when I was 8 at a holiday course in Reading, where we lived at the time.
I was shy and my parents thought I wouldn’t like it as I wasn’t into wearing what I was told (whites and skirts)…but I did it for a week, loved it and was good at it! We moved back to Bristol 18 months later and I played at Horfield with my dad on a Saturday and a coach there said I should go to coaching sessions. My journey at Kings began when I was just 10 and I have never stopped playing and coaching tennis.
At this time, Kings had the best junior program in Bristol so I was very lucky to live nearby and be part of it. My parents aren’t tennis players but my dad is a very good athlete and one of the most competitive people I know! I was a very shy child and when I got moved up through the groups quickly I never believed I was good enough, as I was a late starter to the sport. My mum who can’t hit a ball had to go on to court and try to hit the ball before I would move up a group as I would be crying and hiding in a corner even though I LOVED playing!
My parents were amazing, and I’m so grateful for them recognising my love for tennis and not letting my shyness stop me. I was the eldest of four children and they made it work for me, with all the travel around the country playing tournaments, because they knew how much I loved it! I still have my first books of results that I used to record and keep track of my win/losses!! My dad also encouraged me to go to the States when I was 18, again he knew after time out there himself that it would be so good for me. I nearly didn’t go and I’m so grateful for the opportunities it gave me and the doors it opened.
I never had the idea of starting my own coaching business…in fact I hate the word ‘business’ and it used to bring me to tears (literally) if I thought of myself as running my own business! The word scares and intimidates me! I had always loved coaching but never thought I could do it for my career.
After I got my masters in Sport Psychology and worked at an American University with the tennis teams, I decided that all I wanted to do was coach. I used to watch the coaches there and knew that coaching was the perfect job for me! I resigned from my job and came back to the UK to coach as I was overqualified for visa purposes to stay in the States! In my 10 years living in America, one of the top questions I was always asked was would I go back to the UK…and I’d always say…I’m not sure but if I do I would want to work in grassroots tennis.
The job at Kings came up after I met Francois and spent some time coaching in Cape Town with him. I came back one Christmas to interview for the job and I got it – it was with the understanding that Francois would also join the team! I loved my time away from home and travelling and living elsewhere, but it is a great feeling to be able to provide tennis for as many of the local community as possible, and in a club I truly understand having grown up down the road!
Kings has a strong history – tennis has been played on the site since 1892 and it welcomes everyone to come and play – I strongly believe in tennis is for everyone and we welcome and encourage anyone who is interested in the sport to play, regardless of their age or ability.
Dennis Bendall was the head coach when I was a child, he was an incredible man who was military in his coaching style but always so kind to those who shared his love for the sport. He coached Jo Durie throughout her junior years and the Bendall family are heavily involved in tennis – with Pete (Dennis’ son) being a tutor, the founder of the tennis program at Coombe Dingle, and a passionate coach. Pete’s son Ollie (Dennis’ grandson) now coordinates Avon County Tennis, is part of the University of Bristol team and has a number of other coaching roles. Some of our national ladies playing for us also grew up playing at Kings, Ali Blackett and Lucy Forward. Tim Freeman is on the Kings committee and his father and mother were long standing members – it is a place where people always return! My hope is that we can eventually get it to where it was when I was a child, where we are able to develop more performance players and we are on track to do this over the next few years.
A really cool thing this summer is that some of my old school friends and other people I used to play with as a child at Kings are now bringing their children to toddler classes, holiday camps and Saturday morning sessions!
I hope you enjoyed my tennis at Kings story and if you have any questions please just ask!