Tennis aces for St Andrews
Saints Sport Tennis Club at the University of St Andrews has won two prestigious Tennis Scotland Awards.
The Saints Tennis Club aced the University of the Year Award with former Director of Tennis Mike Aitken awarded a Lifetime Achievement accolade in the annual Tennis Scotland awards announced on Friday 29 April.
The Tennis Scotland Awards 2022 are Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) awards conferred locally that celebrate the outstanding individuals, clubs, programmes and competitions that made a significant contribution to tennis in 2021.
Tennis Scotland, the independent governing body for tennis in Scotland, works with a range of partners and stakeholders to provide support to member clubs, including professional coaching.
Saints Sport Tennis Club is one of the highest performing clubs in the St Andrews Athletic Union with the second highest membership numbers and high retention figures year-on-year. The Club generates the largest amount of income for Saints Sport to invest back into the student experience.
In the 2021-22 season, the student club expanded its performance programme, recreational activities and competition opportunities. The end of the season saw the women’s and men’s teams secure their places in their respective leagues for next season, and the women’s team claim the Scottish Student Sport (SSS) Championship title, with two of the players securing a spot in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championship finals draw.
The Tennis club also appointed a new ‘Learn to Play’ committee member this season, who oversaw the recreational coaching programme. The Club expanded the number of coaching sessions on offer to recreational members and weekly Cardio Tennis sessions. The Club also set up a buddy community programme with the local St Andrews Tennis Club, where students can gain valuable leadership experience acting as a mentor and hitter to developing junior players.
Beth Laybourne, Saints Tennis Women’s Team Captain, said: “This year has been an incredible year for the St Andrews tennis club. With multiple teams earning promotions or record high finishes, the competitive side to the club has performed fantastically all year.
“Outside of BUCS, the club has hosted lots of new events, such as Learn to Play Club Championships, Matchplay sessions and charity tournaments. Off court, the tennis club is always hosting amazing events for members, from weekly socials to spikeball tournaments and the Tennis Ball.
“For the achievements of the Tennis Club to be recognised by the Tennis Scotland awards is amazing, and every single member should be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved.”
“The Club truly believes it isn’t just about tennis,” says Claire McCulloch, Saints Sport Director of Tennis. “It’s about players having as many opportunities as possible to develop themselves while at university and being part of our club. Whether someone wants to play competitively, get started on their coaching career, run events, or get support with developing their marketing skills, the tennis club try and facilitate this, being as inclusive as possible.”
The Lifetime Achievement award, reserved for individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the sport over a prolonged period, was awarded to Mike Aitken, in recognition of his advocacy for tennis participation in the Fife community. Mike served as Head Coach at St Andrews Tennis Club for 17 years, in addition to operating as Director of Tennis at the University from 2010 to 2021.
“I greatly appreciate the award from Tennis Scotland and appreciate even more how lucky I am to have been involved in a career I have loved for so long,” Mike said. “Coaching, running tournaments, going on team trips and playing has allowed me to meet so many people of all ages and I have made long-term friends through my tennis.
“It also gives me great satisfaction to see so many of the people I have coached over the years still playing the game.
“I had an amazing 17 years with the Andrews Tennis Club, a very dynamic club. I took on the Director of Tennis role at St Andrews and thoroughly enjoyed 12 years there with the students. As well as coaching, it was an exciting time being part of the building of the first-class indoor tennis centre.
The Saints Tennis Club being named University of the Year in the Tennis Scotland education category displays the legacy Mike has left at the University of St Andrews.
Mike Aitken said of the win: “I am delighted to see the University of St Andrews win the Tennis Scotland University of the Year award. A great tribute to all the efforts and enthusiasm of the new Director, Claire McCulloch, coach Euan Bell, and all the brilliant St Andrews students in the tennis club.”
The Tennis Scotland Education (University) Award highlights the achievements of some 22,000 schools, 2768 clubs and more than 9276 LTA approved tournaments. Following anonymous nominations to the awards, Tennis Scotland shortlists to ten clubs who they invite to complete a nominee’s form outlining why the club should win the award. As a regional winner for Scotland, Saints Tennis has been automatically shortlisted for a National Award alongside the English regional and Tennis Wales winners.
The National Awards will be announced via a virtual ceremony live on the LTA’s YouTube channel on Thursday 19 May at 8pm, on Facebook and the LTA Website. Presenters for the event will include University of St Andrews Honorary Graduate, Katherine Grainger, along with Jo Konta, Judy Murray and Bear Grylls. The national winners and runners-up will be invited to an event at the National Tennis Centre, followed by a day at Wimbledon on Tuesday 28 June 2022.
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, a membership organisation, and a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.