Reflecting on her three-year term as Tennis Shropshire president, Jilly Broadbent said she was “unbelievably honoured” to have the prestigious role.
After handing over presidential duties to Keith Smith, her former doubles partner, at the county’s recent AGM, Jilly’s pride at being asked to serve as president of her home county’s tennis association shines through.
She is now looking forward to continuing to be actively involved with Tennis Shropshire in a newly-created post of club liaison officer.
“I was very honoured indeed to take on the role of president,” said Jilly. “I was very much aware that I was treading in the footsteps of some very illustrious Shropshire people.”
Jilly proved to be a popular county president and was always delighted to attend events and meet fellow tennis enthusiasts of all ages.
“There is no real list of duties as such for a president,” she said. “The only actual duty was to open the AGM each year, which I was very happy to do.
“But it was a privilege to be asked to present certificates and prizes to people who had worked so hard.
“It was such a joy to give certificates to the winners, but I was very much aware that the person doing all the real work was my dear friend Merill Holt, who was handing me the certificates to give to the winners.
“It was wonderful to acknowledge the sterling work of volunteers and a huge honour, which I enjoyed very much.
“I tried to involve myself in the Wheelchair Tennis Championships each year. I went along most days to offer my help and the events were very well organised.
“I would go around and talk to people and was immensely impressed, awed I will have to say, by what people managed to overcome to play in the Championships and the amazing support that they have from their families.”
Jilly added she was also “very honoured” to have her name associated with the Battle of Shropshire, a new week-long fun team event, which was introduced to the county’s tennis calendar for the first time last year.
Attracting 120 entries of all ages, players took their place in either Team Broadbent or Team Sabin – in honour of Cathie Sabin, Shropshire’s former LTA president – and the competition is set to become an annual event.
Jilly is now preparing for her new Tennis Shropshire role, which will see her work closely with the county’s many outstanding clubs.
She declared: “I’m still getting to grips with it, to see exactly what’s needed and to then respond, as clubs have different needs, depending on their size and depending on the sort of membership they have.
“When I was working, one of the great tenets of our organisation was sharing best practice, which is something I hang on to because I think it’s very valuable to not be inward facing but to be outward facing and see what else is out there which you can use to the advantage of whatever you’re doing.
“There are lots of very good reasons why liasion between the clubs themselves is a positive thing if they are interested.”
Jilly has warmly welcomed the appointment of Keith Smith as her successor as Tennis Shropshire president, describing it as “an absolutely inspired choice.”
She said: “Keith is extraordinarily well known in the area and has worked so hard for tennis, both locally and for Tennis Shropshire.
“There are many people around, hundreds there must be, who owe their interest, their expertise and love of tennis to Keith. He’s an inspired teacher, just wonderful.”
Jilly’s own love of tennis dates back to when she first picked up a racket as a youngster growing up in Newport.
She still lives near the town, having settled in Lilleshall, where she is currently enjoying her third spell as chair of Lilleshall Village Tennis Club.
“I’ve always had a great interest in tennis,” revealed Jilly. “My sister was a very keen tennis player and very involved with Boughey Gardens Tennis Club in Newport.
“I’ve known Keith Smith for most of my life. He and I played together in competitions as doubles partners before I went away to start nursing.
“I met my husband when I was doing my midwifery and most of the places that we’ve moved to and lived, I’ve looked at joining local tennis clubs and having an input if that was possible.
“We had three years in America when my husband had a job over there – we lived in Virginia Beach on the east coast – and that was absolutely fascinating.
“I played in four different clubs there and it was interesting being the only Brit in one of the clubs.”
After returning to England, Jilly initially joined the Tennis Shropshire committee when Chris Hinks was chair, appointed to the role of county welfare officer, a position which she already held at Lilleshall Village.
She loves nothing more than playing tennis with her friends at Lilleshall Village, while she also enjoys being a member at The Shrewsbury Club and Shifnal Tennis Club, often playing as many times as five days a week when it’s possible.
Jilly is now looking forward to being back on court when the time comes for the lockdown restrictions currently in place to be lifted: “I’m absolutely counting the minutes,” she added, in anticipation at being able to play again when recreational tennis is given permission to restart.
Jilly’s love of all things tennis quickly becomes clear: “I’ve met and continue to meet some amazing like-minded people,” she said. “I’ve seen people carry on playing tennis where in other sports they probably would have given up years ago.
“It’s the generosity, the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, the enormous fun that people have when they’re playing.
“Then there’s the social aspect, just sitting down after a really good game and having a cup of tea, a piece of cake and a good chat. It’s absolutely lovely.
“I think people who don’t belong to a club are missing out on the richness that tennis can offer people, the companionship, the support.
“We have people who may have stopped playing for one reason or another who will still come to the club and have a cup of tea with us and are very interested about how the club is progressing.
“Tennis also allows you to play at a level that suits your ability as you get older, which is important.
“It’s a sport that keeps on giving because of how it’s played. You can’t ask for more than that and I think it’s absolutely wonderful.”