Great things ahead for tennis academy

Suffolk tennis coach Simon Harper believes his academy could soon become the hub of the sport's junior production line in the eastern region.

Stuart Watson

By Stuart Watson

Suffolk tennis coach Simon Harper believes his academy could soon become the hub of the sport's junior production line in the eastern region.

When the Sharper Tennis Academy was first formed three and a half years ago, Harper attracted around 40 of the counties best young players to his Copleston Sports College-based academy.

Since then, membership has tripled, Felixstowe Tennis Club has been added as a base, while success on the court has soared, with no fewer than seven of the current county age group winners all training at the academy.

The future years also look remarkably bright for the academy thanks to two major developments.

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Firstly, Harper, who has already developed his coaching in India, Africa and Australia, is hoping his technique will now move on to another level thanks to the help of Pete McCraw.

Harper met McCraw, the coaching development officer to New Zealand and Wales's tennis teams, at a recent tournament and persuaded him to become his mentor.

In addition, the academy's base at Copleston Sports College could have a state of the art 'bubble' style covering two of its courts by the end of the year.

Harper explained: “The Surrey LTA were giving away one of their two court domes for free as it was due to be replaced.

“We applied to receive it and were initially about tenth on their list, however, I kept pestering them almost every day until they finally gave in and said we could have it!

“A team of about 15 or so of us went down to the club for the day and took it apart ourselves and transported the three tonne structure back up to Suffolk to keep in storage.

“We are now hopeful of securing £50,000 from the British Tennis Foundation in order to hire the expertise to get the bubble erected at Copleston before the end of this year.”

The arena, which would be similar in style to the one seen at the Next Gen Gym in Ipswich, will allow the academy to hold many more tournaments and all-weather training.

Harper said: “We are already the biggest tennis academy in Suffolk and, with the help of Pete and, hopefully the new bubble, we could become the biggest independent academy in the eastern region.”

Having been Suffolk's No.1 ranked player in all junior age groups himself, Harper travelled to America in his late teens where he undertook a tennis scholarship at the University of Central Florida.

Upon his return, Harper, now 35, turned to coaching at the young age of 21. One of the main goals of his academy is to give his young players the chance to experience an American tennis scholarship, just as he did.

Harper said: “I want this academy to provide a pathway from starting the sport at the age of four or five all the way up to an American scholarship by the time they leave school.

“Not all these players are going to be good enough to play at Wimbledon, but the scholarships give them a starting point in life.”

The Sharper Tennis Academy, primarily an independent organisation run in the evenings, is also heavily tied in with Copleston Sports College where Harper assists with two programs.

The withdrawal program at the school sees the most talented tennis players taken out of one lesson a week in order to train with academy coaches.

In addition, Harper runs the SETEC (Sporting Excellence Through Education and Coaching) scheme for sixth formers at the school where those interested in a career of some form in tennis are tutored in the sport alongside their A-Levels.

Sharper Tennis Academy have put together a sponsorship package, including corporate days out to major tennis events, for local businesses. Those interested in finding out more about the packages can contact Simon Harper on: 07815195316 or can visit: www.sharpertennis.net.

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