A promising former junior player, Colin Murphy was forced to abandon his tennis dream because of lack of finances. After fundraising £1 million to set up JEM Tennis in 2009, Murphy is helping to make the sport he loves more accessible.
“Tennis is still not really accessible in this country,” he explains. “I was a victim of it when I was a junior and I always vowed that I would build my own club. I think that tennis still has a middle class image and I just wanted to make it more fun, without too many rules, just make it a bit more rock and roll.”
After successfully building up the coaching set-up at Warsash Tennis Club, Murphy (right) decided to take the plunge and started fundraising for his own club in 2006. With the financial support of seven governing bodies, including the local borough council, Sport England and the LTA, the club was built on the site of Hamble Community Sports College, with four floodlit tarmacadam courts and a clubhouse.
With links to a performance academy in Greece and some world-ranked Over-35 players, the club has gone from strength to strength and now boasts 110 adult members – and more than 100 children taking part in weekly coaching sessions.
“We go from 2½ to 81 years old so the full range,” says Murphy. “We had a good reputation so quite a few people came with me and we managed to attract people from up to an hour away from our club. The first year was quite tough but I knew that and it’s the same with any new business.
“I went into local schools, did roadshows, and we regularly run open days and took part in the Great British Tennis Weekend last year. We’ve grown a lot through word of mouth – I like it to evolve and grow organically.”
JEM Tennis was one of the first tennis clubs in the country to sign up for TIA UK’s Court Membership scheme, which offers business support, advice and a wide range of services to volunteer-run clubs. Murphy, who intends to attend the 2015 Tennis Summit in April, is a proactive Director of Tennis that is determined to break down stereotypes.
“There’s a lot of arrogance in tennis but we are an ego-free zone,” he said. “I work seven days a week, 51 weeks a year and I never let anyone down. I try to create a community feeling so it’s not just tennis; it’s a hub so people drop in for coffee.
“We are also quite unique in that we integrate really good players with beginners to help bring their game on. I didn’t want it to just be a club, I wanted it to be friendlier than that. There are no cliques. The juniors have the run of the place because I feel that is key. There isn’t another club like it.”