By Andy Green

IF you are looking for a social distance friendly sport then Barry Athletic Tennis Club is looking to welcome you.

For anyone wanting fresh air, exercise and sport – while keeping social distance – then tennis has many aces to offer.

The club has been part of Barry life since 1912, but it is very much looking to the future to be a true community club welcoming all ages and players of all abilities

Barry Athletic Tennis is nestled in a warm-friendly location on Barry Island, next to the bowls and cricket fields, just behind the promenade on the Island

For Ros Wood and her husband Ed, tennis is very much a family affair. Their two children, aged 10 and seven, have enjoyed tennis coaching at the club for the last three years.

Playing tennis at the club has also had a social bonus. Playing tennis has enabled husband Ed, originally from Derbyshire, and Ros, originally from Bath, to make new friends in the area.

For Ros, the opportunity to enjoy sports as a family were a key attraction: “We were very keen to introduce our children to tennis. We’ve enjoyed playing for many years and wanted to be able to play as a family.

“It’s a great sport for children, combining a range of skills including balance, agility, speed, observation and strategy. It’s a non-contact sport, so safe for kids to play, and would appeal to a child who doesn’t fancy diving into a scrum!”

“We have a son and a daughter, so another attraction for us was that girls and boys are coached together.

“They can then continue to play mixed doubles together as they grow up. Tennis can be played as an individual, or as a team, so it offers a variety of experiences. If you want to play tennis, you only need one other person to play against, so it’s easy to have a casual game.”

She added: “I wanted to give my kids a skill that they could use at different stages of their lives. Many sports are largely played by young people, but I’ve played tennis as a child, as a young adult and now with my family. I’ve seen other members of the club return to tennis on retirement, and I enjoy playing with people of a range of ages.

“It’s a skill that will open opportunities for the children wherever they move to in the future, and however old they are. You can play to your own fitness level, and although fitness helps, it’s possible to play at your own pace.”

“Unlike other sports, which can be expensive to take up, to play tennis you just need a racquet, balls and a pair of trainers, all of which can be picked up cheaply from a supermarket.

“Joining a tennis club is a good way to access coaching and be encouraged by players of all ages, and kids’ membership is often very affordable.”

For Andrew Carr, club captain, who moved to Barry eight years ago from Birmingham, with my wife and young children, tennis is also a family affair, with his children also enjoying the Sunday morning coaching at the club.

Andrew has also taken his love of the game a stage further: “One of the reasons I joined the club was to get involved in competition with other clubs as this is the best way to truly improve as a player. “It’s not just the technical side of playing but the mental strength required to win matches. There are a lot of very good players in the tennis clubs that surround Barry, which can be intimidating, but I found that if you really embrace it and give it your best then you can have a great time.”

He added: “It’s the social aspect that is great fun as it’s a good opportunity to meet other like-minded tennis fans and be able to play away at other clubs is fun. I would encourage any new member to have a go and enter the team. It’s lots of fun, very social and will keep you fit.

“The matches consist of four in total. You have your best doubles pair play the opponents weaker pair and vice and versa. You then swap once those matches are complete. Each match is first to two sets with a 10-point tie break if it goes to a decider.

“Once the matches are complete it’s into the club house for refreshment’s and a bit of a social. It’s frustrating that in these times all competitive club tennis has been cancelled for this season, but I hope to begin next season full of enthusiasm and a full squad.”

Reflecting on the appeal of the game, he reflected: “Tennis is suitable for all ages. At 44 I feel I'm hitting my stride, although I fear it won't be long before my children are knocking aces past me!”

Thanks to the club Andrew even fulfilled a lifetime dream – playing tennis at Wimbledon. He represented the club in recognition by the Lawn Tennis Association of the Club celebrating its centenary.

The club has a partnership with Tennis Squad who have been leading the coaching programme at Barry Athletic for five years.

Robert Wedlake, tennis coach and programme director, feels the most satisfying aspect to his involvement is the growth in family tennis

He said: “Seeing parents – and siblings – have a knock on a Sunday morning whilst their children have lessons on another court is a great advert for the inclusivity of the game.

“We welcome new players of all ages to our coaching sessions which are affordable with free trials and low monthly fees. We are delighted this year so be able to provide coaching in either English or Welsh language too.”

With its own pavilion with lounge, kitchen, changing rooms, toilets, and showers, it offers good viewing facilities of activities on courts. There is ample free car parking at all times.

The club aims to cater for anyone wanting a family activity, to those just wanting a knockabout to anyone wanting to play competitive tennis.

Barry Athletic Tennis Club is run by volunteers with any profits re-invested back into the club’s activities and facilities. It is affiliated to Tennis Wales, the national governing body for tennis in Wales, which is part of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

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