HINGHAM – HIGHLAND SPRING NORFOLK CLUB OF THE YEAR

This award is for achievements made between 1st November 2015 and 31st October 2016.

The Hingham story!

Well, on 1st November 2015 there were no useable tennis courts or club in Hingham, a small Norfolk market town of 1000 houses.  Fast-forward to October 2016 and Hingham has a thriving tennis club with 200 members, two floodlit renovated courts and a fabulous club-house.  Its ethos is that tennis should be enjoyed by anyone, no matter their age or ability.

Three volunteers raised £91,000 over two and half years to enable this transformation. The bulk of the funding came from a Sport England Inspired Facilities grant with a further £14,500 raised from eight smaller funds, an online Crowdfunding campaign and local business sponsorship. 

We have a range of membership packages for all ages and a pay-and-play option for non-members. We have 3 coaches and a packed weekly timetable of adult, junior and mini sessions. Group coached sessions are available to members and non-members and include Skills and Drills, Get Into Tennis, Mini Tennis and Junior Drop In Club. There are various free club sessions for members and plenty of court availability remaining for free play.   During school holidays we also offer ‘Kids Camps’.

We deliver a coach led evening of activities free of charge to the local Youth Club, plus a weekly Cardio Tennis session which the local slimming club attend. There is equipment available in the clubhouse for free use, including red and orange balls so families can have better rallies. 

Hingham Tennis has a strong presence in the local community and has enjoyed fantastic community support so far.  This has included in-kind funding, business sponsorship packages, and many goodwill gestures and donations. We advertise monthly in the Hingham Magazine to maintain our community profile, and have a notice board at the Sports Hall bar where Hingham Tennis is based.  We regularly run free open court sessions to share our facilities with the local community to express our thanks for the support we’ve received.  

The community support has extended to our members volunteering proactively to support the committee.  A great example is a member organising a maintenance rota for the courts and establishing a team of volunteers to use our court vacuum twice a week.  In addition to this, other members have established and run a ‘Tennis Ladder’, and our first working party held just weeks after opening saw fifteen members turn up with spades to edge the courts.

We communicate regularly by email and social media to ask our members for feedback about their club experience, helping us to adjust and grow as a club. The feedback we receive has helped us tailor the timetable to suit the majority. Our first 6 monthly ‘Open

Meeting’ will take place before our Christmas Party, giving members another platform to have their say. Our open and informal management style has meant that members freely communicate and interact with everyone on the committee. 

Our social events so far have been very successful. The official launch event took place on 1st July and with over 150 attending there was a real celebratory atmosphere.  We ran an impromptu August Bank Holiday BBQ American Doubles tournament, with 24 pairs playing.   We’ve also staged an inter-club picnic and tournament with Reepham Tennis Club which was great fun and something we plan to repeat every year. 

We were very fortunate to secure our Head Coach early on in the project, enabling him to input his ideas and experience into the formation of the club.  We have a written coaching agreement and meet regularly to ensure a close working relationship.  We’ve learnt quickly that what works for our coaches works for the club and vice versa.  We see ourselves and our coaches working together, with trust and flexibility at the heart of our collaboration.”

The three original volunteers have been joined by a fourth to form the Hingham Tennis Committee.  Clubspark has been invaluable in reducing the amount of time spent on administration. It’s enabled us to keep our committee small, focused and decisive in its weekly meetings.  We all come from different professional backgrounds, providing the right variety of skills to bring us success.  We work very well as a team and have clear roles and responsibilities.  We also know how to delegate!

We created an operational structure from scratch between confirmation of funding and opening in May 2016.  As part of the Sport England application we had to submit a detailed financial forecast and sports development plan which has driven us forward. We have all the necessary policies in place and visible on our website.  We have found the LTA East Club Forums helpful and we are meeting with our LTA ‘Regional Club Activator’ in the new year to discuss retention and our long-term development plan. We are planning a full calendar of LTA initiatives in 2017 (GBTW x 2, Benenden Festival, Quorn Family cup & Tennis for Kids), and are well on the way to gaining Tennis Mark status.

We are determined to look after our facilities and protect our investment for the future and recognise maintenance is paramount to ensure sustainability of membership. We have a sink fund and comprehensive maintenance schedule planned out. We’ve taken advice from our contractors and from other clubs to help us benchmark our forecasts.  We review our annual income and expenditure to ensure the club is performing against forecast and use Clubspark to monitor our throughput.

We’ve come to this project with fresh eyes. In fact, none of us have ever been in a tennis club before, enabling us to design the club from scratch without preconceived ideas.  We feel we’ve been innovative in how we have established the club:

* We started with a free online ‘Survey Monkey’ questionnaire to prove that our vision was wanted by the community.  

* We launched a ‘Crowd Funding’ campaign, successfully raising over £2k from local residents.

* We put together a three-tiered sponsorship package for local businesses, raising £2k.

* We were determined to have a ‘home from home’ feel for our clubhouse, with big windows for viewing play, comfy sofas and a welcoming environment.  We met resistance along the way but our persistence has paid off. Our clubhouse is now one of our strongest assets.  

 

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