Serving up a great summer of tennis
It’s been nearly two years since Jo Grimwood made the leap from public health into sport management with Tennis Southland.
And while it wasn’t so much a case of resuscitating the code, Grimwood can look back at a period of growth and success which shows the code to be in good health as the 2018/19 season comes to an end.
“Tennis Southland has had a really positive season, with a couple of real gems shining through,” Grimwood said.
The Riverton native points to the fact a Western Southland school zone tournament was held for the first time in several years, attracting 28 entries, and Tennis Southland having its highest number of entries in the past five years at the Southland Primary and Intermediate Championships, the ILT Southland Junior Closed and Central Southland satellite tournaments.
“Thanks to ILT Foundation funding we were also able to co-ordinate the upgrade of 21 tennis courts across Invercargill, including Southland Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools, Surrey Park and James Hargest College junior and senior campuses,” Grimwood said.
Verdon College has also upgraded their school courts to four multi-use astro turf spaces, with a mobile net system. More ILT Foundation funding helped provide a divider net to bring the courts up to competitive standard.
Those new surfaces were showcased beautifully during the ILT Southland Junior Open in February.
“Players and supporters enjoyed the ease of moving between each venue to watch matches,” Grimwood said.
“Sunday was finals day held at the Waihopai Tennis Club where over 100 players and supporters were treated to quality matches and a free sausage sizzle provided by Tennis Southland.”
Performance-wise, it’s been a great year for the code.
Nine junior Southland players were selected to represent Southern at the National Teams Event and, at the national individual championships, Halle Faherty was placed in the top 12 in the 14 and under girls age group.
The 10 and 12 Boys grades are particularly competitive, with fierce competition to make representative teams.
Southland junior teams dominated in the 10 and under, 12 and under, 14 and under and 16 and under age groups at Southern junior tournaments held across South Canterbury, North Otago, Otago, Southern Lakes and Southland, with winners trophies coming across all age groups.
“Tennis Southland can be very proud of the players, management and coaches who enjoyed the challenges and gave 100 percent commitment over two rounds of match ties,” Grimwood said.
“While some matches over the event were one-sided in Southland’s favour, other matches did go to the wire in super tie breaks and our Southland athletes found admirably in every case.”
While results are important, a lot of work has also gone into creating positive team cultures and this has paid dividends, Grimwood said.
Drawing on her experience in the health world, Grimwood has also been keen to enhance the sports as a health promoting environment, with a focus on being smokefree.
Tennis has a long history of providing quality competitive structures across the region and this is something which has continued, Grimwood said.
“The long existing structures of sub-associations in Southland has made tennis readily available to country folk who only have to go ‘up the road’ for a hit, in varying forms of social or competitive matches, or for coaching. Tennis is still a genuinely grass-roots sport and holds true to the value of being a ‘Game for Life’,” Grimwood said.
Of course, making this all possible was the wide array of volunteers who support the game.
“Volunteers make up the bones of the tennis community in Southland and Tennis Southland acknowledges the importance of these voluntarily-run sports hubs providing opportunities for participation at varying levels,” Grimwood said.
“With 26 established tennis clubs across Southland, there’s more than just tennis happening. Along with the mental and physical benefits from being active, these clubs help to bring their communities together year after year.”
Southland tennis has also celebrated an international flavour this year, with French exchange student Matteo Mion debuting for the Southland 16 and under boys team in February, and United States player Sky Lovill, who is currently ranked number one in the province. Lovill has been coaching in Southland since last September after being ranked in the top 20 throughout his junior career in the States.
He was unbeaten through two rounds of the Southern Open teams event this season against the top men from Timaru south and it’s hoped that he will remain in the region.
Grimwood is positive about tennis’ future, especially with some new intiatives in the pipeline for next season.
“Tennis Southland strategic plan is being reviewed this year and it’s important that we build on the success of this season.”