Saturday 16th September saw yet another bright sunny day for what is now the 10th End of Season Tournament held at Hove Park tennis courts, writes Jon Lightbody. This year would be the first to take place on the ‘red stuff’. As always the Tournament proved very popular so I took a gamble (which came back to haunt me later on!) and allowed extra teams to enter, taking our tally from the usual 12 teams to 14 and 84 players in all. With some members and family joining in for a jolly social day in the Park I reckon there were approaching 100 people there for the day – a testament to what a fun and exciting day the Tournament has proved to be. Photos: see gallery below
With the extra teams I knew the day was going to be a challenge so after a brief introduction and the collecting of entry fees by my assistant Rita Mullins it was time for action. Teams as always were split into two groups with Group A being filled by Dyke, Hove, King Alfred, Queens, Saltdean and two teams from St Ann’s. Group B saw teams from Dyke, Hollingbury, Hove, King Alfred, Preston Park, Queens and Saltdean battle it out for the day.
At 1pm everyone was under starters orders. Knowing how tight the time table had become my answer to the question “How much time do we get for a warm up” was “None”. This was surprisingly well received with good humour by the players, much to my relief! It all started very well – having explained the urgency of the time table and asking players to be ready for the change with each match the response was terrific. I have much appreciation for the teams who were ready and on court in the quickest of time and (mostly) ready to play when that whistle blew.
The day progressed serenely and my clock watching seemed to be going ok. It was a lovely experience sitting at my table with plenty of action going on around the courts and surrounded by what are quite awe-inspiring Shields for the League Division winners to be presented later on. It is always quite something to see people, especially young children passing by, stop and stare at the size and history of the League Division 1 – The Beckett Challenge Shield. Although I was stuck at my desk for the day time passed quickly with idle chat and the occasional question from players.
In fact time was passing too quickly. By mid afternoon and a little basic maths it was becoming apparent that maybe the timetable was not going to work. After a quick discussion with Rita and Mick Cox I decided on the plan. I would make each match shorter – surely no one would really notice. Gradually over the next hour I reduced the usual 15 minutes down to 10. The plan was working. My only downfall was that, unlike myself, most people wear a watch. It wasn’t too long before the inevitable questions – was that really fifteen minutes? The response though was fantastic. No one was unhappy at all and accepted the situation with great enthusiasm and kept the games, albeit shorter, rolling along.
By 5.15, and a definite cut off time of 6pm, it was still going to be very tight. We had the use of two courts beyond 6pm and with four more matches to go another plan was hatched. Three matches I could squeeze in. The fourth would need radical change. I decided that for the fourth match and only two courts available, the four teams involved should only put out one pair each instead of the usual three. With cap in hand, I approached the teams concerned and was so grateful when all of them without hesitation agreed to the plan. What a great bunch!
The results though never really looked in dispute. From early on Queens Park took an early lead in both Groups. Although there was some chasing from Hove in both groups and St Ann’s first team in Group A, Queens comfortably hung on to their lead in both groups. These are the final tables.
Now it’s at this point that I have to apologise to Hove! Due to some dodgy adding up I announced one of the Hove teams as having come fifth whereas if I hadn’t missed 10 points plus off, they would have been happy to know that they actually came second! Possibly everyone was too exhausted to take me task on the day, and maybe it’s best not to put me in charge of the economy just yet!
To finish the day off there were trophies to present. With our President Mike Jenner alongside, the Leage Division shield were presented. Division 4 winners this year were a well deserved Hollingbury. Division 3 went to a strong St Ann’s team, with Division 2 going to Hove B. The winners of the Beckett Challenge Shield for the third year running were Hove. Congratulations to all of you. Finally, there were the shields for the day’s competition – congratulations to both Queen’s teams.
All in all I think the day was enjoyed by everyone. Although the timetable was tight and I had to play around with it the focus was more on having a great fun day with lots of tennis involved. As one player said to me, during the League season playing matches you don’t get much chance to talk to people so during the day at Hove Park it’s great to have plenty of time to chat and catch up, have some fun and enjoy a picnic and in may cases enjoy Prosecco and beer!
As always I have many thanks to give. Firstly, to Hove Park Tennis Alliance and Neil Dickson for giving us the use of Hove Park Tennis courts for the day. Secondly to Rita Mullins for supplying the balls and organising the finance, and thirdly to Mike Jenner for coming along and presenting the Shields. But the biggest thanks go to all the clubs, teams and players who make such an enjoyable day possible and make all the work involved very, very rewarding. See you all again next year!