‘The Games were excellent, great fun,’ he said.
‘I enjoyed the tennis – it was great to come away with the gold medal – and I met lots of people.
There was a really good atmosphere there.’Pankhurst explained that his role in the CILTA covers performance tennis for junior players in all the Channel Islands.’My responsibility is for the under 18 performance players who are based at all the different clubs across the islands.
There are two accredited performance clubs in Jersey, Les Ormes and the Caesarean, and I’m also a CILTA tennis coach and responsible for the county squads plus players in the LTA Futures programme.’There are two current Channel Islands players – Heather Watson and Nick Thiebault, both from Guernsey – who are national Futures players and Guernsey’s Isabel Wray and Jersey’s James Faudemer who are County Futures players.Originally a coach on the education side of the LTA, Pankhust, who is 23, is also directly responsible for the mini-tennis set-up in the islands.’The Channel Islands are producing a good number of performance players,’ he said, ‘and the figures are on a par, per head of population, with those in counties of a comparative population size, such as Wiltshire.
We’re also doing much better than Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.’As is the case with all sports in the Channel Islands, Pankhurst said that what all the players need is a decent level of opposition to improve their games and to give them competition experience.’The LTA understands this and, from the top down, players in the islands are heavily supported by LTA funding so U10, U11, U13 and U18 teams can all go away to play.’Proof that the system is working came recently when the U11 girls’ team qualified for the U11 national finals.’It was the first time ever that a CI team qualified to play against Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, all big tennis counties – and they beat Surrey.
Heather is the top U11 player in the country, and the Channel Islands county squad is now seventh in the country.
It’s probably one of the best things that has happened to CI tennis in the last ten years.’Again, as is the case with all sports, tennis sees a massive drop-out rate when the players approach 14.’My priority for the youngsters is to make it fun, but a lot of the fun for them comes from improving their game and beating their peers.
And the kids want to stay ahead of their counterparts on the mainland.’Long term planning is essential, and Pankhurst said it had been scientifically proven that teaching youngsters the right things at the right time in their development – including discipline and respect – produces players for the future.His own path to his current career included schooling at Millfield, where he was tennis captain, and a BSc in sports science from the University of Bath.He was one of the top eight U18 players in Great Britain and competed in satellite and futures tournaments.He thought seriously about playing tennis full-time, especially when he got to the U18 National semi-finals, but instead opted for A-levels and university before taking up coaching, and he is the only tennis coach in the UK to hold both the Performance Coaching and the Tennis Development Award, both at the highest level.’I love coaching and trying to help players improve .
it’s a big motivator, and being CPO gives me extra responsibilities such as organising trips away.
‘The improvement in CI tennis is down to the coaches.
We wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for them, they work so hard at grass roots level and we need people like them at all levels to maintain standards.
‘The LTA provides development courses to improve coaching standards and, specifically, to ensure coaches keep their licences which gives them credibility and shows they are of a certain standard.’