CATHOLIC INSTITUTE COACH BELIEVES FUTURE IS BRIGHT FOR THE SPORT IN IRELAND
by Donn O'Sullivan
IN THE third of our ‘Coaching Clinic’ series, we sat down with Catholic Institute's Tennis Coach Bryan Stewart.
The Laois native is positive that Limerick can be a strong region for Irish tennis and believes that as of yet, the Limerick tennis potential is untapped.
“Since I moved here from Laois, I have seen the game grow nationwide. The numbers in Limerick are higher and participation is growing. It may not be growing as fast as we would like, but it is getting there,” the newly qualified Level 3 coached added.
Limerick has produced tennis professionals such as Conor Niland and Sam Barry and Stewart believes that the talent pool is there for players to follow in the local duo's footsteps.
“There is huge potential here in Limerick. The range of sports that Limerick people play helps hugely in terms of tennis. Footwork, eye hand co-ordination etc. Only last week Roger Federer admitted that his football experience as a youth helped him with his feet on the court. Limerick is a sports mad county, people just need to try tennis, maybe just give it a go and they could easily be naturals.”
Stewart teaches all levels of tennis at the Catholic Institute, but much like all sports, the coach believes that investing time in youth is the way forward.
“It sounds like a cliche, but the most important thing is to get kids interested in the game at a young age. We have had open days at the club this year where more than 100 turned up. That is a great base for us to start from.”
The club structures at the Limerick have also helped in recent times to promote an environment for the sport to grow.
“The work of Brendan Maher, our club captain and Conor Sherlock, our club secretary, cannot be under estimated. They have transformed the workings of the club. We are looking to build on the work they have done and allow kids from all over Limerick city and county to use our facilities and share our passion for tennis,” Stewart added.
With any professional sport, the path to the top level is something that might not always be clear to those starting off. Stewart agrees that players who are looking to follow in the footsteps of Niland and Barry are going to be fighting a tough fight, but the more elite players that the country can produce, the better.
“There was a major winner this season on the pro tour from Latvia. Jeļena Ostapenko won the French Open. Gilles Müller of Luxembourg beat Nadal at Wimbledon. Those two countries would not be tennis power houses. If they can produce that level of tennis players, then so can we.
"If a player comes on the scene from Limerick, then they are going to have to move on sooner rather than later to compete against the best. If we can make that journey easier for them at the start, then we are going somewhere. That is our aim, to promote the game, make people better at it and make sure they have a great start in the game,” Stewart added.
“That is why I would have started coaching in the first place. The behind the scenes work done by the players and their coaches is incredible. That always interested me when I was playing. We all see the finished product on the TV every week, but the work they have to do to get there is mind boggling. Coaching, for me, is about making that process easier on the player, so they can just be free to play” Stewart concluded.
For those that are interested in tennis, the Catholic Institute have beginner classes on Tuesday nights at 7pm for adults and at 11am for kids every Saturday. You could be a natural.