It’s a golden night for award-winner Wolfie - PICTURES and VIDEO
A 64-year-old Hednesford man whose doctor recommended he joined a free tennis programme to boost his wellbeing has netted a top trophy from national charity Tennis For Free.
John Jones, known as Wolfie because of his love of Wolves, has just taken the top honour of ‘Tennis For Free Player Of The Year’. He has been playing weekly at the charity’s Hednesford Park site since 2015.
And there was a very special award presentation in store for Jones. Bosses at Wolves were so moved by his story they invited him to receive his award from Tennis For Free chief executive Paul Jessop at Molineux, in front of a 30,000 crowd.
The presentation took place during half-time at the Championship clash with Norwich City. Former Wolves midfielder Steve Daley announced the award over the loud speakers and interviewed Jessop and Jones about the top title and what Tennis For Free can offer.
Receiving the award, Jones, who wears his Wolves badge and scarf every day, said: “This is something I will never forget. It was such an honour to get the award in the first place but to be presented with it at Wolves is incredible.
“I am so grateful and I have such a long list of people to thank. I love Tennis For Free and all the friendly and funny people who play with me every week, whatever the weather. I have made so many friends there and really feel part of the community.”
Announcing the awards, the judges’ citation read: “John Jones has been attending since the first session at Hednesford Park in 2015 on the back of a recommendation from a GP referral scheme. Since then Wolfie has recorded more attendances than any other TFF attendee across the UK.
“At 64, John values the physical and social benefits the scheme provides. He was also featured on television in 2017 during Mental Health Awareness Week showcasing Tennis For Free and the benefits of the scheme.”
Tennis For Free is a UK charity which aims to create healthy, vibrant local tennis communities for free on public park courts creating new players of all ages and backgrounds.
It is partnered with the LTA and joins the local authority to create two hours of free tennis every week at normally under-used tennis courts targeting hundreds of local people to enjoy a new sport to improve their fitness but also create new social and friendship groups.
Tennis For Free supporters include Judy Murray (mother of World No1 Andy), BBC tennis commentator Andrew Castle and ex-Grand Slam winner Pat Cash.
Jessop said: “The judges found this year’s awards particularly difficult to mark because of all the amazing stories. It was a close call and we celebrate everyone’s achievements but John’s story of starting to play tennis at 60 and attending every week for three years made him a stand out.
“We want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved at TFF Hednesford for making the site such a great place for people like John to attend week in, week out. I also want to thank Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for everything they have done to make this award so special for John.
“Now looking ahead to 2018 we are aiming to open our 100th site this year and also reach another milestone – registering our 100,000th player. That means that we have introduced 100,000 people to the sport of tennis which is something that we are very proud of.”
Paul Bayliss, Tennis For Free regional development officer said: “My congratulations to Wolfie and to everyone at Hednesford Park. It’s a super site with energetic and friendly coaches and a real community feel – exactly what Tennis For Free is all about.”
Hednesford was voted TFF Site of the Year in 2016 and run sessions every Sunday between 10am-12noon.
You can register for Tennis For Free at www.hednesfordparktennis.co.uk For more information visit www.tennisforfree.com.
because it is about more than just about tennis. At Hednesford the site can truly help people’s state of mind. Hednesford has a GP referral scheme operates. Doctors recommend the programme to vulnerable patients. Also, it helps boost social skills and confidence - social workers, family workers and Job Centre staff have steered people to the scheme and seen participants grow in confidence. People who were once afraid to go out and now they volunteer at the sessions and autistic youngsters have become more confident and made new friends. Finally, we help improve fitness levels - people of all ages are enjoying better, healthier lifestyles since taking up the sport.
Tennis For Free has plans to bring more than 175,000 new tennis players, 2,000 coaches and 5,000 volunteers into the sport over the next five years. The charity, which runs free community tennis sessions at public parks across the UK, has a new partnership agreement with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and a new funding circle of private individuals. The new partnership will boost the network of free tennis schemes by hundreds nationwide, launching in Wales and Northern Ireland as well as increasing its sites in England and Scotland, making it a truly national community led programme.
Tennis For Free, which works with local authorities and tennis clubs up and down the country, currently funds around 200 professional tennis coaches who are supported by volunteers to offer weekly sessions to people of all ages and backgrounds at its 50 sites. Everything is free for participants - equipment is provided and there are no court hire costs. It will also bring more people, especially from disadvantaged communities, into physical activity and reinvigorate under-used local parks.
Tennis For Free runs at Hednesford Park every Sunday between 10am-12noon. You can register for Tennis For Free as follows: www.hednesfordparktennis.co.uk For more information visit www.tennisforfree.com. You can also follow Tennis For Free on twitter @tennisforfree and on Facebook.