Chairman's Report 2021

Horsell Tennis Club AGM – 19th February 2021

Welcome to the 2021 Horsell Tennis Club AGM. Thank you for joining us.

First of all, I think we’ll all agree that it’s been a strange year! The cloud of Covid-19 has determined what we can and can’t do in our lives, and tennis has been impacted along with everything else. We were fortunate that tennis was early to come out of the first Lockdown and we were therefore able to enjoy our tennis for most of the summer. A big thank you goes to all our Members for being so understanding and supportive and to my fellow Committee members, many of whom have put in extra work to keep everything running smoothly with the minimum of disruption to members; I’m not sure our general maintenance manager, Adrian Crouch, has ever been so busy locking the courts, changing the codes, opening them again, and ... well I lost count.

There have also been lots of surprising positives. Due to a long period when tennis was just about ‘the only game in town’, and with many members not working so much or working from home, the courts were fully booked from dawn to dusk for much of the open times. Many members, including some who hadn’t previously been regular users of the courts, took the opportunity to get outside and enjoy having a hit with family and friends. It’s been great to see so many members on court; the enforced singles play certainly made a few members sharper around the court than previously from what I could see.

The effect on membership was also dramatic. We were inundated with applications for membership after the raising of the restrictions for tennis in the first Lockdown. We had been monitoring court demand and membership numbers, and it was with heavy hearts that the Committee decided to close our membership to new members to protect the availability of our offering to our existing membership. We now have 784 members (2020 - 704, 2019 - 608, 2018 - 515), including 215 families, all from our lovely Horsell village community. It is proposed that the membership for the 2021/22 year be opened to renewals by existing members first, following which a decision can be made by the Committee as to whether to open to new members again depending on the renewal rate.

I know earlier in the year there was some concern that members couldn’t book courts when they wanted as court usage was very high. Andrew Pell proposed and implemented some changes to the booking parameters which seemed to help to settle the situation, but we still suffered from booked but unused courts by some less considerate members. Unfortunately, the court booking system doesn’t currently have a reminder facility, and any such reminder would have to be done manually each day by one of our volunteers, so we continue to rely on the thoughtful goodwill of our members to cancel courts that they won’t be using. Whilst mentioning Andrew, throughout the year he has been very willing to step up to a variety of issues arising in both a consultative and doing way, and I would like to express my thanks to him on behalf of the Committee for his continued and considered involvement in helping with a wide range of Club matters.

Denise Balmer, whom many of you will know is a long-standing member who wears many hats in the Club today including as our Honorary Secretary, has done a great job of engaging with our landlords at Woking Borough Council to ensure they fulfil their obligations in our Lease. Not only did she organise the one off ‘deep-clean’ of our courts that had been overlooked, but also the ongoing regular monthly inspection and maintenance for safety, weed, and leaf clearance which is also part of their obligation. Thank you, Denise, for sorting what has been a long-time issue with our Landlords. Denise has also been dealing with the many and varied email enquiries that come to us, from people wanting to become members of our lovely facility, to member raised requests, and other general emails. Denise also leads on our neighbourly engagement with Horsell Bowls Club, including organising the bowls evening for our members and the return tennis social with them. In wearing her various hats, Denise has matters to attend to several times a week and just quietly gets on with it. Denise, we are extremely grateful for everything you do.

Many new members from the last couple of years are coming to the social sessions on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and to the coaching, thereby starting to integrate into the Club - several seem keen to play competitive tennis! It’s  great to see so many of our members getting more involved; as we know, it’s never easy being new to a Club unless there’s a route to get involved and get to know fellow players through socials and coaching. The Wednesday evening Mixed Doubles Club Nights have been regularly fully booked with a waiting list, this in contrast to when I first joined the Club at the start of 2018 and usually only four people turned up! Of course, we couldn’t play without the balls that Adrian orders and organises and that are provided at our social play sessions. Thank you, Adrian for this and for your lock management and general maintenance skills. Another quick thank you to the Committee members who turn up and organise our members to mix in with varied play, especially Denise who’s a stalwart of Wednesday evenings.

Our coaching offering has again thrived this year and our LTA coach, Chris Hearn, continues to provide excellent and fun coaching to all adult levels and junior age groups within our Club. Despite the pandemic threatening to completely wipe our group coaching, with careful use of both courts and separating players into groups of 4, we were able to get back on the road to improving our tennis when coaching was permitted. The feedback on Chris’ coaching has again been fantastic; we’re lucky to have such excellence associated with our little Club. Thank you Chris. I’ll be working with Chris to plan next season’s schedule of coaching courses as soon as we have some sight to the lifting of current COVID-19 restrictions.

I’m very pleased to say that our Committee has a new volunteer, Steph Delaney.  Welcome Steph. Steph kindly agreed to be our Club Welfare Officer, a critical requirement for our LTA venue registration and duty of care. Having attended the necessary training through the LTA and obtained her DBS, Steph formally took over the role from Parisa Pell. Thank you Parisa for standing in until we were able to make a permanent appointment. Steph has also agreed to be the Club’s Social Secretary and has several ideas that she’ll put in place for more social and fun tennis during the coming season, COVID-19 permitting. She’ll be organising some event sub-committees to help her with the socials and will be looking for willing volunteers from our membership. We’re all looking forward to getting involved Steph and thank you for taking this on.

On the subject of the LTA, we again renewed our venue registration in November which carries with it the usual venue insurances. You’ll be aware that the Wimbledon Championships were cancelled last year, as therefore was our Ticket Draw. The LTA yesterday released details of the tournaments that will be going ahead this summer, including Wimbledon. Given the uncertainties that remain around the level of spectator attendance during the pandemic, they’ve said that further details on ticket sales will be released closer to the time. We will therefore hold our Wimbledon Ticket Draw when and if spectator tickets are to be released, and under the guidance of the LTA and AELTC, and will communicate the process to be followed.

Moving to our finances that are so ably managed by our Treasurer, David Le Claire. We are now fully onboard with the digital age and all our transactions are online including membership fees, coaching enrolment payments, and events managed through our ClubSpark website. We pay a small transaction fee for this but the benefits in time saving and ease of payment by members are immense.  With the absence of any of our events going ahead last year and some of our junior coaching cancelled due to COVID restrictions, therefore limiting expenditure, our funds have remained strong. We continue to provide our adult coaching at near to cost and our junior coaching is subsidised at around 50% from our membership funds. It is proposed that we continue to provide our coaching programmes on the same financial basis in the coming year. Thank you, David, for your continued diligence in managing our finances and new statutory filings.

We made a start on our Covered Shelter, approved at last year’s AGM, at the back of Court 2 where you’ll see the concrete base has been laid. Mike Tuck is kindly managing the Shelter project for us. It continues to progress, and plans are drawn, but we’re a little stalled by the recent notification of the need to apply for planning permission. We very much hope to complete the Shelter this year.  Mike will be happy to share the plans should anyone wish to see them.  Thank you, Mike, for the generosity of your time and professional expertise on this.

We’re extremely fortunate to have the support of a really exceptional Committee. Despite all the extra work, constant changes, and communications this year, their commitment to their roles and to the Club has been outstanding. Without them and their selfless work you simply wouldn’t be playing tennis in the village and our Club wouldn’t exist.  A very big thank you goes to all the Committee for all their work and support.

So, despite the global pandemic, the Club has a healthy level of membership with an enthusiasm for coaching and improvement, a strong balance sheet, and better attended social tennis than ever before, giving us reason for positivity. The courts have experienced record levels of use and it’s great to see so many people playing tennis. However, at present we’re unsure about what’s going to happen this coming season with the cloud of the pandemic still engulfing us. We’re cautiously optimistic about restrictions around tennis being lifted, about which the LTA continues to lobby. Rest assured, whatever the situation, the Committee will keep smiling and trying to deliver the best value for money, engaging, and fun community tennis experience in the area!

Finally, it remains for me to wish you another great season of tennis this year. Fingers crossed.

Stay safe everyone.

Laura Cameron-Peck
Chairman, Horsell Tennis Club