Enjoy tennis year round
HAVING been founded in 1923, the Albany Lawn Tennis Club in Douglas will celebrate 90 years in 2013.
And today it is as much of a hub of activity as ever.
With coaching, tournaments and fun court time for all ages and abilities, plus social and charity events throughout the year, it really does offer something for everyone.
‘I played tennis at school from the age of 13,’ explained club secretary Pat Sharp, 77, who, along with husband Bryan, 79, president of the club, has been a member for 50 years.
Although Bryan still plays and coaches regularly, Pat has had to give up the action.
However, she is still very much at the heart of the club and enjoys interacting with the youngsters and writing a weekly column in the Courier.
‘I loved tennis from the very beginning,’ she said.
‘I met Bryan in 1956 and he loved it too. And that was it. I joined his club in Hertfordshire.
‘We moved to the island in 1962 and we always joke that we had a tennis club before we had somewhere to live. We joined Albany and have seen the club progress all the way through the last 50 years.’
Starting on courts at Albany Road, the club later moved to Laureston Grove, and two sites in Victoria Road and Noble’s Park.
In 1965, funds were raised to buy land and develop private facilities. As a result, an acre of farmland was bought for about £500 and the club moved to its current site at Ballaughton Meadows, Douglas, six years later.
Although the club now boasts a whole array of facilities in a two-storey clubhouse, the first clubhouse was a railway container which was later replaced by a builders’ hut.
Today, the club has three floodlit outdoor courts and a much-loved indoor court, which was built in 1994.
Pat explained: ‘We had quite a strong junior section who complained they didn’t get enough court time as they were only allowed on if seniors didn’t want it.
‘The only answer was to have another court but we we didn’t have the money. So, with the help of their family and friends, they went out and raised £8,000. Then someone said couldn’t we have it covered so we can play all year round.’
‘It was wonderful when it opened,’ she added, ‘because it rained that day.
‘We boast that you can play all day everyday.
‘All members have a key to the club grounds so they have access to the outdoor courts at anytime.
‘When we had the hut we had one chemical toilet now we have seven toilets and we are the only club in the island with an indoor court. We are very proud of our club.’
The club’s membership secretary Jan Gaskill started playing tennis when she was about 11.
‘I joined a club in Cheshire and used to go down there with a friend and play,’ she explained, ‘I then stopped playing for quite a while but came back to it in the early 70s and have played ever since.
‘I moved to the island in 2000 and joined this club as soon as I arrived.’
‘I love tennis,’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m not competitive - a lot of people are but I’m not.
‘But it keeps me fit and I like the social aspect of it. It really helps you meet new people.
‘I was made to feel so welcome when I came here and I’d like to think we can do that for new people when they join. We are one big family really.’
With about 250 members, aged from four to 80, it now claims to be the biggest tennis club in the island.
Its facilities are used for county training, championships and veteran inter-county matches. And it even hosted the tennis event for the Island Games in 2001.
The current resident coach Ian Watson offers group and individual sessions for all ages.
He took over from Scotsman Colin Hambidge who had coached Andy Murray when he was a little boy.
Harris, 17, who has won competitions and now has a junior world ranking, and four-year-old George McAleer.
‘George turned up with his brother just days after his fourth birthday to join,’ said Pat, who served on the Isle of Man Sports Council for 10 years, ‘He loves playing and has since taken part in a tournament, which for a four year old is quite something.’
She explained: ‘Tennis is so good for the children. As well as learning the sport they learn social skills. We try to teach them the right way to do things and they have to be in a group. They all get on lovely. It’s a joy to watch them.
‘And they don’t just mix with each other, they mix well with the adults too. Some of them even go on to become coaches.’
The club hosts three junior open tournaments each year - one sponsored by Ned Group at Easter, one by Equiom in July, and one in Autumn half-term sponsored by Panacea Pharma Project (PPP), which also sponsors the weekly children’s sessions. The senior open tournament, sponsored by Chrystals Estate Agents, is held in May and the Club Championships, also sponsored by PPP, are held in August/September. There are also various one-day tournaments throughout the year. And the club hosts a Presidents Day Tournament in September where juniors team up with seniors.
When the club celebrated Pat and Bryan’s 50th anniversary, they instigated a trophy in their honour to be presented at the Presidents Day Tournament.
‘Tournaments are open to all abilities, you just need the confidence to enter,’ explained Pat.
The club also hosts various fundraising events throughout the year, including a strawberries and cream tea day during Wimbledon, for a range of charities. They also welcome the Children of Chernobyl when they are in the island each summer. And there is a huge array of social activities throughout the year, including and a homemade ladies’ summer luncheon, an annual quiz, a bingo night and family barbeques.
The clubhouse has a room upstairs that can be rented out for parties, functions and meetings, and there is a disabled toilet and disabled access.
Membership costs range from £60 per year for under-11s to £180 for a single senior and £425 for a family (unlimited number of children).
For more information visit
‘Come and visit us,’ urged Pat, ‘You can come as a guest without joining straight away and give it a try. We welcome all abilities - from someone who has never played before to people who compete at a high level.’
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Weather for Isle of Man
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South west