The tennis coach who fell in love with the sport at nine is giving thousands of kids the chance to do the same with his amazing programme in local parks
Stuart Maidment has always been crazy about sport. At nine he joined a local club and fell in love with tennis, demonstrating a natural flair for the game. He steadily rose through the ranks before representing Warwickshire as junior. But even more than the competitive side of the game, he found he had a real passion to inspire others to get involved which saw him becoming the youngest ever qualified tennis coaches at just 14. “My mother was a special needs teacher in Chelmsey Wood and my dad was a business mentor with Solihull Council, so maybe I inherited some of the necessary coaching skills from them,” he says. Stuart has had successful stints as a high performance coach but his real interest lies with introducing the game to as many people as possible and then watching them flourish. “My coaching philosophy isn’t about winning at all costs. It’s also about teaching people life skills like manners, punctuality and accepting both winning and losing with respect. It’s about being the best you can be.” At 19, Stuart became a coach at Edgbaston Priory Club before taking on a managerial position at his local Coleshill Tennis Club.
He returned to the Priory in 2011 and with support from the LTA, he helped launch a community tennis programme called the Lordswood Community Tennis Club. It’s a membership programme aimed at individuals and families in the area which sets out to inspire children from as young as three to embrace the sport. “There are so many people that just don’t have access to tennis,” says Stuart. “Either they come from underprivileged backgrounds or it’s a game they can’t relate to – we wanted to change that, to get more people playing in schools and parks across Birmingham.” Over the last four years more than 5,000 children have been through the scheme with over 150 regularly being coached each week. That success earned Stuart the prestigious Aegon Coach of the Year award in 2013. “It was lovely to be acknowledged but nothing beats the feeling of watching young people improve themselves as individuals as a result of the programme,” he says. Further funding from the charity Give It Your Max and International Clubs Philanthropy has allowed Stuart and his team of coaches to reach even more primary schoolchildren, and last month he launched another new programme at Canon Hill Park. Providing free tennis to anyone who pre-registers, more than 300 people have already signed up. The programme will now expand to include more parks as well as running disability schemes during term time for wheelchair tennis and also kids with learning disabilities.