Skip to main content Skip to site footer
Club News

Serving up inspiration: Dons visit All England Club

A growing partnership

11 April 2024

Club News

Serving up inspiration: Dons visit All England Club

A growing partnership

11 April 2024

On Monday 8 April a significant event took place as the Dons were exclusively invited to the All England Lawn Tennis Club – representing a major breakthrough.

The significance is defined by the fact that this is the first time that the football club had been invited to the grounds which host the world famous Wimbledon Championships, meaning our relationship is strengthened, and therefore providing a big boost for the town as a whole.

Our first-team squad were treated to a guided tour of the grounds by Dan Bloxham, Head of Coaching at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, who has worked with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Things then got even better as our players and staff changed into their all whites – as per the club’s official rules – and took to the practice courts for a coaching session with Dan, plus former professional tennis player and TV personality Annabel Croft, and other current professional women’s players.

After an intense warm-up, the players moved into a series of games, with varying abilities on show for all to see, offering laughs and admiring glances aplenty!

All in all, it was a fantastic, insightful experience for our players and staff that we will remember for a long time as we continue to promote sport in our local community alongside the AELTC.

AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson said: “It was an unbelievable day and I just want to say thank you to everyone involved for inviting us down. For the squad to go on a tour, and get the opportunity to play at one of the best indoor facilities in the world, was amazing.

“Though Dan’s tips were helpful for our tennis technique, of more importance to us was his approach to coaching. Even when we thought we were hitting good shots he would say ‘that’s just normal’. It’s about having standards that you practice every day in training, so the tips Dan gave us apply to all sports.

“It was brilliant for the boys to see the dedication that’s required in a completely different sport. Tennis is an individual sport so players have to put in a lot of sacrifices to make it, but with football you have 10 team-mates on the pitch and a changing room of 20-plus. Having spoken to people involved, I think the sport of tennis can be a bit of a lonely place in comparison. It takes absolute dedication, so I think the boys can learn a lot from that.”

After rolling back the years with a demonstration of the talents that once ranked her 24th in the world, Annabel said: “I think it’s wonderful that the two clubs have come together, it’s that nice community feel and you wonder why it hasn’t happened before. The clubs can share ideas and experiences together, so it has been a really good day.

“I’m hoping for an invitation to AFC Wimbledon! I would absolutely love to watch the Dons playing professional football. I’ve never been, but having played tennis with them I’d love to come and watch the Dons play. With football being a team sport and tennis an individual sport, there can be differences psychologically, but in terms of technique – how you move to the ball and athleticism – there are always going to be crossovers.”

Dons midfielder James Ball’s tennis technique caught the eye and he pushed GB ranked number four player Lily Miyazaki – currently 140th in the world – all the way in a one-off game with his efforts earning adulation from his team-mates on the sidelines.

“I used to play a lot of tennis alongside my football when I was younger,” said James. “Ultimately, it came to a point when I had to make a decision about what sport I wanted to pursue and football is what I wanted to do.

“Even for someone like me who has played a fair bit, to have Dan coaching us was unbelievable. It was a privilege to take a tour of Centre Court and the facilities.”

Craig Cope, Head of Football Operations at AFC Wimbledon, said: “When you google Wimbledon the tennis always comes up first, so for us to be invited down and to forge a relationship with them is unbelievable. We can’t thank people here enough for inviting us. Our lads don’t get to experience something like this every day, so it’s a good start to what we hope will be a long partnership with the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

“We’ve got three games to go in a really tough season, so it’s all to play for really, and it’s all about what we can learn from people here.

“Something we picked up last summer was the training ground and the culture that we needed to create. When you come here everything is immaculate and the branding is all on point. As staff, we can all learn from being here.”

Dan Bloxham added: “We host a big international tennis event, but we love all sports, and we respect and love having AFC Wimbledon as a close neighbour. The more that we can offer local people in terms of a variety of sports and building a strong sporting community, across the borough, the better. The Dons have set an incredible example in terms of their community activities and we’re really excited to work alongside them going forwards.

“At Wimbledon, we are proud to host the world’s best tennis players  and we know there is no magic trick to their success – it’s about doing the simple things well, repeating it, and the environment you create. Hopefully, the one message the guys will take away is that an amazing performance has got to be normal. That’s your day-to-day level and if you do that and have a good sprit and atmosphere then hopefully it will be the play-offs and beyond for AFC Wimbledon.

“The attitude and joy shown by the players and members playing together was lovely, it was a really fantastic day.”

“We’re with some of the best tennis players in the world and there is no magic trick – it’s about doing the simple things well, repeating it, and the environment you create. Hopefully the one message we’ll take away is that an amazing performance has got to be normal. That’s your day to day level and if you do that and have a good sprit and atmosphere then hopefully it will be the play-offs and beyond.”

PICS: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images)


Advertisement block

iFollow Next Match Tickets Account