Coaches' Corner is a new blog from the Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative, the trail-blazing community tennis programme run by the AELTC. The WJTI coaches, led by AELTC Head Pro Dan Bloxham, have introduced tennis to over 150,000 school children in Merton and Wandsworth, inviting many of them to develop their skills and enjoy the game at Wimbledon itself. Read on to find out what is happening with the WJTI this month...
February will be a month of firsts for 13-year-old WJTI player Gemma Southwick, who will be travelling to Sweden at the end of the month with WJTI coach Dan Bloxham to compete in her first international tournament, the Kungens Kanna and Drottiningens Pris in Stockholm, a Tennis Europe event.
Gemma has been part of the WJTI ever since Dan and the team visited her primary school, Sherwood, in 2005. Like all WJTI players, Gemma, who was just five at the time, had no previous experience of tennis before the visit, but impressed the coaches with her athleticism, focus and ball skills.
From her very first days with the WJTI, Gemma displayed qualities that have helped her achieve a national ranking – she is fiercely competitive and determined, and was invited to join the WJTI Squad in 2006 for more intensive coaching twice a week.
Now aged 13, Gemma’s programme at the WJTI has increased to meet the demands of her game, support her achievement and effort levels, and to help her be the best she can be. Alongside her schoolwork, Gemma fits in 12 hours of squad training, three hours of individual training, and two hours of strength and conditioning each week, as well as regular communication with Jamie Edwards, who works with the top WJTI players to help them maximise their potential by helping them to develop a winning mindset.
Gemma has had some interesting experiences already with the WJTI – she has played on Court 14 during The Championships, on No.1 Court during a Davis Cup tie, met Her Majesty The Queen and featured as part of The Queen's Christmas message in 2010, and has represented Merton, Surrey and the South East of England.
But going to Stockholm will probably be her toughest test yet – we wish Gemma a fantastic first visit to Sweden and know she will make all of us at the AELTC proud.