Shropshire’s Bob Higgins has been recognised for his long service to tennis with a prestigious award from the LTA.
Chairman of Alveley Tennis Club since 1997 and the driving force behind a number of county competitions for many years, Bob has been chosen to receive the LTA Meritorious Service Award.
“It came out of the blue,” he said. “But it’s really nice to be recognised and to know that you are appreciated.”
Bob was nominated for the award for his enthusiasm, commitment, involvement and voluntary service to tennis at both club and county level for more than 40 years.
Having joined Alveley Tennis Club in 1979 – he has lived in the village near Bridgnorth since 1975 – Bob was soon identified as a keen player and volunteer.
He became more involved with his local club when his daughter Caroline, who progressed to be a junior county player, started to have tennis lessons as a youngster.
He has since taken on many roles at Alveley, both on and off court, and was appointed chairman 23 years ago.
Also currently the club’s match secretary, Bob was instrumental in fundraising and project managing the refurbishment of Alveley’s courts and floodlighting in 2017.
“For a small club, we now have very good facilities.” he said. “We could always do with more members, but it works well and the people involved enjoy their tennis.
“We may not be a large tennis club but we are a happy one. During the time I have been involved, I have made many friends.
“I’m in my early 70s now, but I still enjoy playing. My wife Jan plays and so does our daughter.”
Bob has always had a strong interest in match play and competition, both as a player and organiser, and that’s what led to his first involvement with Tennis Shropshire.
As a competition organiser and referee, he was asked to join Shropshire’s LTA committee during the 1990s, serving for several years alongside other Shropshire stalwarts Cathie Sabin and Clive Knight.
He took on a leading role in the organisation and staging of the County Closed tournament alongside junior team competitions.
After stepping down from the county committee, Bob continued to be involved in club and county competition events, leading to the introduction of the Aegon Team Tennis Competition in 2008, which was among the first to have online entry and recording procedures.
It became renowned in Shropshire and beyond as ‘Bob’s competition’ and was extended to include 8U and 9U events hosted at single venues, which helped arrest a decline of numbers in younger age groups.
He organised and delivered the competition in Shropshire virtually single handed for several years.
As the number of entrants increased – over 90 teams now take part in Shropshire – the competition came under the banner of LTA Team Tennis, and Bob, with an eye on succession planning, has drafted in others to assist and to ensure sustainability.
He was officially recognised in 2018 as LTA Team Tennis Organiser of the Year: “That was nice, something I was very pleased with,” he added. “There’s been a lot of other people involved along the way in terms of the competition, particularly Simon Haddleton at The Shrewsbury Club, who has been a big help as far as the younger age groups are concerned.
“People like Bob Kerr and Ian Greig have also been very helpful and supportive over the years.”
Bob follows in the recent footsteps of fellow Shropshire tennis enthusiasts Liz Boyle, Merill Holt and Clive Knight in receiving a Meritorious Service Award from the LTA.
Simon Jones, the Tennis Shropshire chair, said: “Bob’s long-standing involvement and support of tennis in Shropshire along with all that he continues to do at Alveley Tennis Club is tremendous. He has given fantastic service to tennis in the county for so many years.
“His support of what is now known as the National League for junior players and his commitment to it is just phenomenal.
“You know when Bob is involved with an event that everything is going to be so well organised. He thoroughly deserves this recognition.”
Bob Kerr, the LTA councillor for Tennis Shropshire, added: “Bob has played a major role in supporting tennis in Shropshire for many years.
“His actions and selfless commitment have undoubtedly resulted in many juniors from all backgrounds having the opportunity to engage in competition at all levels.”