Jeppe has always entered teams into the school tennis leagues, but this year there has been a great improvement in their fortunes. We have three sides and all of them have a serious chance of winning their leagues and earning promotion and, most importantly, the number of boys wanting to play has grown.
So, what has changed? According to the team captain, Declan Brogden, it’s the order and discipline that has come with Mr Bryan Hillock taking over as master in charge of tennis. “Before, we would just rock up for our games, we didn’t really train and there wasn’t much motivation,” he said. “Now we have serious practices and Mr McGeer is the first team coach. He is a student of the game, he reads all the coaching books and watches the videos and there has been a visible improvement in the players.”
Mr Hillock believes it’s about raising the profile of the sport in the school. “I think tennis became a minor sport, catering for boys who didn’t want to play a anything else. “We have tried to make it visible and we have been encouraging good sportsmen who play other games to give it a go in their off season.”
That approach is working. In the past Jeppe fielded two teams in the leagues, now there are three, with enough other players to take it up to five next season. At the moment the first team is lying second in their league, while the 2nds and 3rds are both topping theirs.
To raise the sport’s profile, the first team now has its own special shirt and extra activities have been added to the programme. “We will be taking two teams to Westville Boys’ High as part of the annual winter exchange, and we have been invited to play at the St Stithians Easter Sports Festival. Later in the year we will be playing in the B Section of the Sun City tournament,” Mr Hillock said.
“Not having our own courts is a challenge, but we have a good arrangement with Jeppe Girls and we are getting around that.”
Jeppe old boy, Dave Lincoln who is now the sports director at St Benedict’s has been a great help, Mr Hillock said. “He and their tennis coach, Nicky Hamman, have been mentoring me and letting us benefit from their experience in their tennis programme which is the best around. I am very grateful to them.”
Tennis at Jeppe is fun, Declan said. “We are enjoying ourselves, we train hard and we are being treated as serious, disciplined athletes. That’s starting to show in our results.”