An inspirational coach has been crowned a national winner at the prestigious LTA Tennis Awards for his efforts in enabling children from all backgrounds to play the sport.
Chris Marshall, who coaches at G Tennis in Lambeth, has won the LTA’s flagship Community & Parks Award for his work in making tennis welcoming to all.
Throughout 2021, Marshall led youth sessions at Larkhall Park for more than 400 people – many of the children from disadvantaged backgrounds – making the sport fun while teaching them the basics of the game.
He said: “It’s amazing and honestly I’m really pleased.
“A lot of people think that tennis isn’t a sport for a certain type person and we’ve proved that it really isn’t, everybody wants to pay and the barrier is just cost.
“It’s a hard game to learn and we have a lot of children who aren’t as developed or coordinated as others.
“You can very quickly learn to improve hand eye coordination and things that, even if they don’t carry on playing tennis it will help in the other facets of life and other sports.”
Marshall was announced as the winner by Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston at a live-streamed awards ceremony presented by LTA president David Rawlinson and hosted by the LTA’s head of men’s tennis, Leon Smith.
The LTA Tennis Awards are in their seventh year and celebrate the achievements and contributions of outstanding tennis volunteers, coaches, officials, venues and players across the country.
Marshall was hand-picked as one of 17 national winners recognised at the awards ceremony last Thursday, which honoured individuals involved in tennis at grassroots, county, regional and national level.
Nominations were drawn from more than 25,000 volunteers, nearly 5,000 coaches and 1,000 officials, 22,000 schools, nearly 3,000 clubs and more than 9,000 LTA approved tournaments, with Marshall recognised for his tireless work in providing new opportunities to those who may not usually get them.
Marshall said: “We’ve just made our programme a lot more diverse and have been more inclusive to reflect the area that we work in.
“I’ve now put in an application to start a charity. A lot of people who donated money last year kept us going and said if we are a formalised charity then they will make it a regular thing.
“There’s a lot of money in tennis which is the reason that makes it quite an elitist sport but it shows that there’s a lot of generosity as well.”
Alongside his normal coaching role, Marshall organised a holiday to the Chilterns for several of the children where they were able to play tennis and try activities such as horse riding, in what was a first ever holiday for some of the participants.
The quality and quantity of the nominations demonstrate outstanding work that has been done in tennis through the last year and David Rawlinson, LTA President, said: “The LTA Tennis Awards are a real celebration of the people that make our sport thrive.
“They acknowledge the achievements made by outstanding volunteers, coaches, officials, venues and players, who are all vital in helping us to grow the game.
“The outstanding contributions the nominees have made to the sport and to their communities has been tremendously uplifting and I would like to thank them for their fantastic work.”
To find out more information about the LTA Tennis Awards or for information on how to play, coach, volunteer or officiate in tennis, head to https://www.lta.org.uk/