Sudbury Tennis Club is bouncing back from worrying coronavirus lockdown period
The Covid-19 lockdown could not really have come at a worse time for Sudbury Tennis Club.
At the start of March the Quay Lane club completed a substantial investment for members by installing state-of-the-art LED floodlights to allow play to go on up to 10pm.
But the coronavirus pandemic lockdown of all sport across the country on March 23 forced them to close down just as they were in a key phase of membership renewals.
It meant that they went into lockdown with only 13 members, having been working on the income generated from their usual 80-90.
“It certainly was a worrying time as we took out a loan from Suffolk LTA to finance the LED lights on a 10-year plan and membership is the only thing that generates income for us,” explained Helen ‘Squash’ Jackson, the club’s secretary whose involvement at Sudbury dates back to 2004.
“Our membership year starts on the 1st of April so people were thinking ‘why join if we can’t use the courts?’.”
The measures that subsequently followed to offer clubs financial help, including the LTA handing back court fees for 2020 affiliation to the body, helped ease the concerns.
But it was then a big relief for the club’s committee to hear tennis was to be among the very first sports to be able to reopen a week ago, with new restrictions aimed at keeping players safe.
Jackson took the step of coming up with reduced membership prices (full membership from £120 now down to £105) to account for the month-and-a-half lost.
Thankfully, their recovery to their usual numbers is well on the way a week since reopening, though still with a bit to go.
“We went from having 13 at the start of May to now having 58, and some are new to the club too which is great” she said.
“We have three artificial clay courts which is wonderful as hard courts can be very hard on the knees and hips but as these are clay on carpet you get a beautiful spongy surface.”
The club is currently unable to run any inter-club tournaments or club nights and its broader Halstead & District League summer season has been cancelled due to the pandemic. But Jackson is hopeful competitive action within the club will return towards the end of the summer.
Currently, the pavilion clubhouse, which also includes a new kitchen for social events, is shut down meaning the LED floodlights are not in use yet.
But club coach Matt Perry has been able to start doing one-on-one coaching. He hopes to be able to resume his junior group coaching later in the year.
The LTA advice has allowed people to resume playing doubles matches in family groups and singles matches outside of that with two sets of balls, which requires the servers to only use their own.
Any under-18 signing up to lessons is still not having to pay a separate membership fee for use of the courts. Their parents are also able to benefit at a reduced rate, if not wanting to play in competitions.
The club already had an online booking system that has now become mandatory and Jackson said things had been going well with just two courts currently in action to maintain social distancing.
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