Coach Blog - Mike Castle

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After a bizarre end to the 2019/20 BUCS season and the University's academic year, the time has come to reflect on what's been happening behind the scenes @CMetTennis in preparation for the new start in September/October. New funding applications, new programme planning, new BUCS structures and prepping for an exciting year of blended teaching with online and practical sessions has meant that exciting challenges have been faced over the Summer months.

Perhaps most exciting however is the return to the club of Performance Director of Tennis, Ellen Jones, after taking some Maternity-Leave with new family addition, Oliver. From a personal view, it is a welcome return that Ellen makes. Stepping into the role of Performance Director has been a real eye-opener for me this year, particularly when balancing the responsibility with teaching, marking and managing time to work on my Doctoral thesis. Having Ellen back in the (virtual) office meant we could continue to work together as a team to build the strategy and vision for Cardiff Met Tennis moving forwards.

On that note, we’ve been working hard over the Summer to prepare for a new term and a new CMetTennis programme. We’ve been fortunate to secure funding from the LTA to support positions in the club and have continued to develop our partnership with Tennis Wales to set a vision for the future. Whilst the virus which shall not be named curbed tennis for some considerable time, Government and NGB guidelines meant we could get back on court and back to planning for September.


New-Look BUCS

The biggest change for this year, I think, is that the BUCS season will begin in January. Term 2 will be jam packed with fixtures all the way through to April whilst the run up to Christmas may now feel that little bit less chaotic than it traditionally does. What this change does afford us is time - time to settle into our routines, meet our new members, create healthy habits with studying and lifestyle and to get some training under our belts ready to kick-off the season in the New Year. As a coach, I’m excited to see what first term developments we can all make to stand us in good stead for a competitive season. I do however have one concern, and that is match practice. Matches feel different to practice sets. Practice sets feel different to competitive drills. Competitive drills feel different to training exercises. You need a bit of everything to really help players to develop - competition, for me, is the most important part.

Fortunately, over the Summer we’ve been working alongside Tennis Wales and Barry Fulcher from the UTR Powered Progress Tour to get tournament dates in the diary for players to enter. Cardiff Met Sport have been working with the Students Union to find competitive opportunities against local universities in the absence of BUCS. The National Premier League Doubles teams have also been entered ready to start in October - an opportunity for both the Men’s and Ladies’ teams. No doubt we will all be excited to see how we perform in BUCS competitions, but the opportunity to work through a longer training block before that starts this year is really exciting.


The Only Constant is Change

With the return of one member of staff, we also say farewell to another in the form of James Hayward-Browne. ‘HB’ has been a member of the club since he started at the university in 2014. Moving from the Foundation Degree to Strength, Conditioning, Rehab & Massage (SCRaM) and then onto a Masters in Sports Broadcast, he has shown himself to be versatile and his commitment to the club has been exemplary. Upon becoming the University Tennis Coordinator in 2018, HB has been hugely influential in developing the media promotion of the club, building our social media platforms, creating amazing content for YouTube and the media channels. He’s also been ever-present on court, competing in BUCS, running Social Tennis, Cardio Tennis and other big events such as the Charity touchtennis competition for Welsh Hearts. Everyone will be pleased to know he has secured a great role as a Content Creator for Rise at Seven - an exciting Search Engine Optimisation company in Sheffield! He's already made some awesome content if you check out their socials.

The UTC always brings their own little signature to the role and the impact is always different. HB excelled with his media skills and others have been exemplary ambassadors for the club with their skills in management, coaching, being great motivators and mentors. We've now had 6 UTCs at the university since 2010 and they have all done their bit to grow the game and to do what they can for our members. They support Ellen, me and other coaches and are often seen going above and beyond to make sure they do the best for members.


Opportunity Favours the Bold

So, with our UTC applications opening soon and some strategic changes for the club being made, this year's students will be presented with a number of opportunities to develop their skills, build on experiences and contribute to the future of the tennis club in so many ways. Social Media Managers, Club President, Social Secretaries, Treasurers, Coaches… the possibilities are rife! We’re always on the lookout for committed people to help take the club forward, to help cement a great experience for those who follow in their footsteps. I think it often goes unseen that the impact that alumni and returning students have made in previous years. The achievements, inevitably with a three year turnaround of graduates arriving and leaving, go unnoticed and forgotten. However, it should be clear that the way the club runs now is a result of how it has been run in the past - so it’s time for others to make their mark!

Let's finish with an offer - Can you make a difference? Do you love to support others? Are you keen to learn and develop your skills? If you can answer yes to any of these, get in touch - we'd love to hear about your visions and ideas and we're keen to support you too!