THE Vale Tennis Academy team is celebrating a brace of coaching awards.

Having joined the VTA team in September, 2013, where he has been training on the job whilst delivering elements of the programmes at the Penarth, Barry Athletic and Cowbridge clubs and Vale Hotel, 17-year-old Tom Bellingham, from Penarth, is Wales’ first ever tennis coaching apprentice.

Tom became the youngest Level 3 qualified coach in Wales and can now train individuals and groups within a club environment and has the business management skills to run a successful programme.

Tom said: “I’m ecstatic that I have been able to take such a big leap in the coaching ladder so quickly in my tennis career. This time last year I was still in school studying towards my AS levels but not really knowing where they would take me in life. Since the apprenticeship with the Vale Tennis Academy I have a clear career pathway and a great outlook on life.”

Following on from his apprentice’s success, VTA head coach Rob Cunningham passed his Level 5 certificate to become the first and only Master Club Coach in Wales. Tennis Wales chief executive Peter Drew said: “Congratulations from all at Tennis Wales to Rob in becoming the first tennis coach in Wales to achieve the Master Club Coach Award. The Master Club Coach Award is a fantastic professional achievement and is a reflection of a coach having all the necessary skills and experience to run a successful tennis business which not only provides excellent on-court coaching but who is also successful at promoting the sport, getting more people playing and growing the game in a fun and enjoyable way.

"Rob has successfully demonstrated these attributes over a number of years with his excellent work in developing the Penarth Lawn Tennis Club and, more recently, with his very successful expanded business with the Vale Tennis Academy. "Tennis Wales has an ambitious objective of transforming the tennis coaching workforce across Wales by 2020 by creating a network of highly skilled coaches with all the necessary professional skills to promote, market, and grow the sport so are delighted to see Rob come through as the first coach in Wales to achieve this level. Hopefully Rob’s achievement will inspire more of our coaches in Wales to achieve this award."

The LTA course takes two years to complete and candidates have to pass a tennis coaching management degree, mentoring qualification and a series of on and off court coaching assessments.

Rob said: “The course was gruelling at times but, at the same time, so worthwhile. The course has not only helped my on court skills but has also given me a much wider viewpoint of the tennis landscape in Wales and the UK. The level 5 may be the top coaching award in the UK but I am still learning new things about the sport and how to get more people active every day.”

Rob, Tom and the rest of the VTA team have a busy summer ahead. Half term week will be a break from the normal club programmes with tennis camps running Monday-Friday in Penarth and Barry. VTA have also been heavily involved with local secondary schools delivering primary taster tennis sessions, lunchtime and after school clubs.

If anyone is interested in establishing a link with their local school or club or want to start playing themselves visit or email