"Moneyball" dream inspires Gosling Tennis Academy's plan

PUBLISHED: 16:04 04 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:05 04 February 2015

Tennis Academy director Matt Willcocks

Tennis Academy director Matt Willcocks

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"I have been struggling to find a word to describe Gosling Tennis Academy that incorporates exactly what we do," said the club's tennis director Matt Willcocks as he strolled between the dedicated souls putting themselves through their paces in the Sports Park's gymnasium.

Matt Willcocks as he strolled between the dedicated souls putting themselves through their paces in the Sports Park’s gymnasium.

“I have come up with ‘hub’ but it’s still not great.”

In the corner of the sprawling room is the lively world number 236 Ed Corrie, hours before he jets off to Glasgow for a Challenger circuit event, while last year’s junior Wimbledon quarter-finalist Josh Sapwell wanders towards the door after his workout.

Yes, this is one of the UK’s four international high performance tennis centres which provide the foundations for several pros such as the aforementioned Corrie or Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, beaten in the Australian Open first round by eventual winner and world number one Novak Djokovic two weeks ago, to hone their skills.

However, as Willcocks is so eager to stress, there is more to Gosling than just the elite.

There is the ‘hub’ that incorporates the whole community.

“Gosling gives everyone an opportunity to play tennis here,” said the club’s general.

“If you just want to hire a court, there’s courts you can hire.

“If you want to be a member of the club, you can come down and be part of the club.

“There’s a disability programme. There’s social nights so this isn’t just about the academy.

“The academy is such a miniscule part of it but it just happens to be the most high-profile.

“If people want to play, you can just come down.

“In the most part, what we wanted to do with the tennis piece of the Gosling puzzle is provide a fantastic tennis experience and give everyone the opportunity to play their best.

“If players have aspirations of making the top 100 or just picking up a racket and getting involved we can cater for everyone.”

Gosling do continue to cater for all their players too.

From 11-year-old Indianna Spinks, who, at present, is testing the best within her age group, to the seniors, under a recently created programme at the club, everyone is thriving at the academy.

For the competitive side of the club, Willcocks, who has led the academy for 10 years, accredits much of his work to literary and film piece Moneyball.

Written by Michael Lewis, the book revolves around baseball team Oakland Athletics and the statistical route coach Billy Beane takes to assembling his 2002 squad, that go onto breaking an American League record with most consecutive wins.

That inspiration led Willcocks to create a list of 11 key percentage-based elements, including break points to win a match or second serve accuracy, that give a player the best chance of winning.

The idea of tennis being an individual sport was discarded for the new-found team ethos, where everyone can club ideas together to aid success.

He said: “Once I thought about the concept, I did a lot of research around it in order to find out, ‘what actually wins tennis matches?’

“You can get a lot of generic fluffy answers like a player moving better or making more balls or they hit well.

“What we have done is broken it down into very measurable ideas.

“Knowing that, we team up with all the players and give them the best information to help them get into and stay in the top 100 in the future.”

In the courtside bistro, Willcocks is very keen to introduce a player called Mark.

Having been in a wheelchair for several years after a car crash, Mark found solace in tennis and in particular, the “family atmosphere” at the club.

Now having played for two and a half years, Mark’s life revolves mostly around his adventures on court; another fine example of the club’s spirit.

Just outside, one of the club’s tennis coaches is just moments from taking an ice bath for Sport England’s “Spogo” programme - another offshoot to encourage people to take up sport in their local community.

It is those stories that Gosling Tennis Academy build the foundations in which to succeed at a community level.

Amateurs and professionals working in harmony to make the “tennis experience.”

The academy is fast becoming a “nucleus” for the local clique.

n Anyone interested in joining a club or being a part of a session, go to www.goslingsports.co.uk/tennis/index.php or contact the club directly on 01707 834 327.

Sessions and coaching are available for all ages and genders.

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