James Coffin & Antonija Sokic (2021/22 EUTC Captains)
EUTC receives ‘University of the Year’ award for the South and Southwest of the UK
President of University of Exeter Tennis Club, Antonija has seen lots of success for the largest university tennis club in the UK this year including the win of 'South & Southwest University Tennis Club of the year' by the LTA. This award now means EUTC have been shortlisted along with the other regional winners for the National award on the 19th of May. Antonija tellls all about what a year it has been...
My name is Antonija Sokic and I had the incredible opportunity and privilege of having been President of the tennis club for the 2021/22 academic year, the largest university tennis club in the UK and the Athletic Union’s largest individual sporting club. My co-captain (and the 2022/23 Sport President), James Coffin and I, found it to be quite an experience of stewardship of EUTC, which this year had a record number of members (1200+) in the clubs’ rich history. Although James and I have been fortunate to lead the club; teamwork, and collaboration from a number of fellow members, were essential roots in EUTC’s success.
EUTC was recently awarded the ‘University of the Year’ award for the South and Southwest of the UK, by our sport’s national governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). We are honoured by this recognition from the LTA and look forward to the national awards ceremony. Our sincere thanks to our University Tennis Coordinator Oshi Leverton, for nominating us for this award and for his invaluable support throughout the year.
My involvement in the club extended onto the court as well, as the ladies’ 1st team captain. This gave me a unique perspective in a competitive BUCS environment for the last three years. I developed a real appreciation of the selfless dedication and motivation our elite players have for the university. Alongside their studies, I have seen disciplined time management and shared commitment from our athletes, even at the toughest and busiest times of the year. Tennis is normally viewed as an individual sport, but our players’ shared desire to compete and win for the team and university we represent was incredible. Our drive for success was also often inspired by our coaches: Guy, Katie, and Finn, who have worked tirelessly this year to ensure our teams are fit for BUCS competition, whilst overcoming the challenges associated with coming back after a Covid-19-restricted year. The Men’s 4s won their cup, the Men’s 2s ended at the top of their league, and both the Women’s and Men’s 1s narrowly missed out on promotion.
BUCS competitions are only part of the EUTC story. In fact, the Beginners, Intermediates, Advanced and Development sessions make up one of the largest aspects the club. This Girl Can and our new Accessibility Sessions help achieve our main goal of increasing inclusivity for this academic year by inspiring female participation, as well as give focussed attention to those who require additional support. We supply our members with any equipment required to play and offer multiple sessions a week for each level to accommodate for busy university schedules. All our coaches undergo training at the start of the year and are required to have all qualifications up to date so that we can offer safe, well-planned, and encouraging sessions from experienced coaches. Match plays, themed mixed doubles tournaments, and box leagues, ensure that all abilities can play competitively and progress their tennis to move through the many levels EUTC has to offer. There are many coaching opportunities at the tennis club which have provided many of our members with a part-time job, both at the club and the centre.
As an elected welfare officer for the last 2 years, it has been particularly rewarding to start a well-being podcast for performance in sport and be a point of contact for fellow members who required help. The new welfare Instagram page, group chat, and charity events have created a large focus on the importance of mental health. What many don’t know is I struggled privately with mental illness during my time as club captain. The support of members, and particularly my co-captain, was truly remarkable and all of it went unnoticed as I received help without hesitation or credit required. These acts of kindness, understanding, and support within the club should be celebrated as they no doubt contribute to the clubs' welcoming environment and sense of community.
Tennis has such potential to have a positive impact on mental health, like it has for myself. Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu are excellent examples of professional tennis players prioritising their well-being. These tennis stars open the conversation on this traditionally taboo topic, and as a result, encourage participation within the sport that can offer endless social, physical, and mental benefits. The University of Exeter’s current Sport President, Katy Dalglish, is another excellent contributor to a welcoming environment, as she provided support for not just the tennis club, but every AU sport this year. Katy, along with Anna and Finn from the welfare team, have helped to shape well-being in student sport, namely by allowing tennis to pass on their insightful and educated advice. Their work has helped the EUTC Well-being Officers make a real impact this year.
Each and every EUTC committee member has gone above and beyond their respective roles to make the stash, publicity, treasury, social events, and competition, in my not so humble opinion, the best it has ever been. As volunteers, their commitment to improving tennis within the university, is not only appreciated by James and I, but collectively has had a real positive impact on our members’ academic year. We look forward to handing over our role to the very capable future Club Captains, Gabe Kennedy, and Georgia Price.
It would be wrong to attribute all the club’s success this year to any one individual. I have witnessed EUTC thrive this year, becoming record breaking and award winning. This was through the support and commitment of so many people, who were brought together by the shared love of the game.
We want to congratulate all the staff and students who are the reason behind winning this fantastic award. We pride oursellves in not only having one of the best facilities, but also coaching teams here at University of Exeter Tennis Centre.
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Date: 8 April 2022