IT was celebration time at the Priory Tennis Club, Stalybridge, on Saturday, November 11 when members marked the end of a very successful season at the club’s annual President’s evening.
Top of the agenda was the team-of-the-year award which was won by the men’s first team that went through the whole season undefeated to gain promotion to the fourth division of the North East Cheshire Tennis League.
What is more remarkable is that this was the third year in succession that the team had been promoted – a league record.
The team comprised captain Josh Byrom, Will Corless, Rob Woolstencroft, Will Johnson and brothers Ed and Jonno Seville.
Much of the credit for the team’s meteoric rise up the leagues must go to the club’s head coach Andy Perry, who has nurtured the majority of the team through the the junior ranks to their current position as first-team members.
In addition Josh was presented with the player-of-the-year award, having won all the internal competitions held at the club during the year plus the New Mills Open Singles Tournament.
Team captain Leanne Evans collected the award on behalf of the club’s winter team in recognition of their promotion to division four of the North East Cheshire Winter League while Andrea Cust was named female player of the year.
At the end of the evening retiring president Henry Schofield announced that his wife Vicki would be taking over the reins as president for the forthcoming year.
The successes mark a sharp contrast to eight years ago when, with an ageing team sliding slowly don the leagues, they decided action was needed and turning to youth was the answer.
While statistics from Sport England highlight the drop off in sporting activity from 13 years of age, the tennis club managed to inspire a group of teenagers to keep playing and working hard.
Moving on to the present day, and three promotions in three years and the club is back up to division four of the North East Cheshire League that boasts 11 divisions in total.
For a small four-court club competing against far bigger clubs in and around Cheshire this is a major coup, and according to Perry, it is only the start.
He said: “When I started at the club eight years ago, it was obvious the adult teams needed reinforcements.
“Expanding the junior programme, and working closely with local schools, we were able to provide a performance pathway for the most talented juniors.
“Not only that but we worked hard to integrate them into the club and provide a welcome environment for them to keep coming along each year.
“With junior teams all the way up to U18 level, competition and opportunities for regular coaching the juniors progressed each year until they started playing for the adult teams.
“Roll on to the present day and we have seven players under the age of 21 playing for the team alongside experienced adults.
“Josh Byrom as first-team captain has done a great job motivating the players, and I have no doubt they will continue to climb the league over the coming years.”
The club has come a long way of the last few years with new courts, a fully refurbished clubhouse and a coaching programme which is the envy of clubs around the region.
Priory is a small friendly club situated in Cheetham’s Park and new members of any standard are welcome to join. They have players from reception class to 93 years of age. For more details visit the club’s website www.priorytennis.co.uk