For someone at the helm of an organization that has just undergone one of the most tumultuous years in its history, BLANE DODDS is remarkably upbeat.
The countless challenges raised by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have been faced by every sport in the world, and Tennis Scotland is no different. But Dodds and his team managed to take a lot of positives from the situation out of the ashes.
“Incredibly, we’ve managed to achieve growth in attendance during this time. We’re up six percent,” he says.
We were planning the policies really early, so we managed to push through with golf, and we were the first sports to be released from the lockout, which really helped. People really wanted to go out and play sports again-you can only walk and run so much. So it was really enticing to meet people and play tennis, and I think that was a major reason behind the tremendous growth w
It was a very tough time, but I am very pleased with the way tennis reacted and came out of it.
The figures for growth are all very promising, but Dodds knows he should not rest on his laurels.
As a result of Covid, Tennis Scotland has lost about a quarter of its expected sales this year and he admits that survival was his first thought when the full effect of the pandemic became evident. In that regard, the governing body seems to be out of the woods, but there is still a lot of tennis work to be done in this region. The LTA, and Tennis Scotland by extension, have long been criticised for failing to capitalize on the boost the Murray brothers have offered the sport, and time is running out to make the most of their position at the top of tennis with both Andy and Jamie well into their 30s.
Dodds is well aware of the ticking clock and he is now optimistic that things are going in the right direction after two and a half years in his present post, during which time the membership of the club has doubled. A £ 12 million funding arrangement with the LTA was awarded to Tennis Scotland earlier this year, with Dodds giving priority to increasing the number of tennis courts throughout the country and the number of coaches in Scotland.
Progress on equipment has also been made, with a new £ 1.24 million indoor facility opening a few weeks ago in Elgin and new coaching positions about to open. However, Dodds knows that with limited resources, with Tennis Scotland currently working with just 12 workers, he will have to use all his skills to campaign for more rises in funding.
“When I took this job, I really wanted to get the ambition going again. So we had to put a plan in place and tie it to the demand for more resources. With more resources comes the ability to hire the right people,” he says.
We also need to build coaching jobs, and we need to create more jobs to ensure that development continues if we want to see more kids playing soccer.
“And we also want to show ambition with coaches from abroad, like with our National Academy Head Coach Leo Azevedo, who has worked with former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, because the knowledge that someone like him brings is so important.”
Scotland has been among the best players in the world for more than a decade, with Andy Murray, but Scotland could use more young players to make their mark on the world stage with the former Wimbledon champion set to retire.
With the University of Stirling hosting one of the success centers of the LTA, there is a chance for local players to carve a path into the professional ranks, while Dodds admits that we shouldn’t hold our breath for Murray anytime soon.
“No one can just go and create the next Andy Murray – someone like him has magic dust sprinkled on him; you can do everything right, but you still need that special quality to get to the top of the world like he did,” Dodds says.
“What’s been great about the Murrays is that everyone has seen what’s possible, and that you can be world class even if you’re from Scotland.”