Where Tennis Plays a Role in Changing Lives
This month I’m chatting to Christine Dransfield who is a full time tennis coach with Greenhouse Sports. She’s based in a school so her role is more than just tennis coaching. She coaches tennis during lessons, before and after school, as well as providing a mentoring role for many of the students at the school. “I deal with social, thinking and emotional skills alongside physical wellbeing” Christine tells me “that way it becomes more than just making them a better sports person, but giving them the skills they can take through life”.
This is very much the Greenhouse Sports way of doing things, focusing on much more than just the sport. The fact that Christine is actually based full time at the school enables her to achieve so much more with the students. “I can do my job without too many restrictions” she says “the school are very supportive and happy for me to deliver enrichment activities that help the students achieve.”
Christine started her own journey into coaching at university. Studying PE and science, she spent five years as a teacher and was playing tennis at the same time. “I joined my local David Lloyd club and then got asked to start helping out with some of the children’s sessions” she tells me. From here, she left teaching and moved to London to start tennis coaching. Working with a coach whose brother directed the PTR in the UK, Christine soon trained and started working alongside other coaches delivering club and school sessions. From here she was offered a full time job with PTR looking after their members all over the UK and then became a tester for them. A brief move to Canada and the USA followed before she returned to London and started working for Greenhouse Sports.
“Growing up as a coach in the PTR world was a great experience, with opportunities to travel and work with coaches from all over the world” Christine says. “It’s an environment where you can’t help but learn” she tells me, although accessing relevant CPD is a challenge as a lot of the training that Christine seeks is at the performance end of the scale. “I enjoy going on courses” she says “but the availability of courses at level 4 is limited”. Christine is a keen learner “I like to learn” she says with a smile “and I’m always looking to build on what I can do”. She cites online as a new resource, using YouTube as a way to check her coaching and to search for resources, although there is a downside to this “sometimes I need to be able to engage with other coaches to give me things to think about” she says.
Being qualified to quite a high level in tennis coaching helps Christine to deliver coaching at a community level. It allows her to understand her players, where they are and where they need to get to. Working in a school environment can sometimes bring its challenges but it would seem that the key to Christine’s success is understanding their previous experiences.
“I like to think I’ve made a difference in a child’s life” Christine says and talks about how working with the children in the school to enthuse and motivate them definitely contributes to a change their behaviour. “Even if just one child takes up tennis as a result of being given the opportunity to experience it I’m happy” she says. Christine clearly enjoys teaching and being part of a learning environment and can see the impact of her work “I can see the benefits of taking part in sport in a growth in their confidence and energy”.
Christine benefitted from having a really supportive school, one that pushed her academically but also gave her so many opportunities. “The PE staff were amazing and they got us involved in everything” she tells me. Taking part in gymnastics from an early age and progressing to a high level in the sport, Christine was always destined to end that particular sporting endeavour early. “It’s only now, when I look back at my coaches that I can really appreciate how much they did for me” she says.
Looking at sport now, we discuss if there are enough women role models in sport to inspire the next generation of young people. “We’re getting there” Christine comments “but it’s different for each sport. I’ve been inspired by many women but they haven’t been and don’t have to be the ones who are at the top”.
Christine is excited about what the future holds. There is talk of an additional tennis court being built at her school which would enable her to establish a club that brings players in from a primary age and develops them throughout their school life. “I can get them involved in all aspects of tennis, as players, as leaders and hopefully as coaches” she says. It would certainly put the area on the map in London and would create a tennis coaching centre that would focus on both development and success. It’s hard not to imagine Christine being at the centre of that.
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If you've been inspired by Christine’s story and want to get involved in coaching but don't know where or how to start, check out sports coach UK’s Reach campaign. You'll find hints and tips as well as case studies about women who are succeeding in coaching.
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Steven Bentall, Coaching Network Manager