Meet Mark Rawlingson, whose early years holidaying in the region laid the foundation for him to relocate here from the big smoke. Mark has some big plans for the club …
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Sydney.
When did you first come to the Port Macquarie-Hastings region? What were your first impressions?
My parents built a holiday house at The Beam, off Clifton Drive when I was 8, and I began coming up during school holidays. Vivid early memories include the lush rainforest at Sea Acres and the great beaches. As a kid I was entranced by Fantasy Glades – I wish it was still around! As an adult, I continued to enjoy Port, but also had holidays at North Haven and Comboyne.
How long have you been here, and what made you decide to relocate?
I’ve been here for a few weeks now. When the opportunity came up to coach tennis at Westport, I just went for it!
How were you introduced to tennis, and who inspired you?
I started playing at a tennis camp one school holidays. I really loved it and have just kept playing and learning the game under great coaches like Vic Edwards, the man who guided Yvonne Goolagong-Cawley.
I joined the Hornsby-Kuringai Tennis Club in northern Sydney and played through the age divisions, winning a number of club singles and doubles titles, as well as local junior tournaments and district championships. Later I played a couple of satellite circuit events, which are a stepping stone to professional tournaments. My tennis heroes were Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
How did you get into tennis coaching?
While I was completing a degree in leisure management at University of Technology, Sydney, I undertook the Tennis Australia Coaching Accreditation Course. I coached at Sydney University and also lectured and tutored trainee PE teachers there on how to play and coach tennis, so they had at least the basics to teach their students. For the last 17 years, I’ve been the coach at Waitara Tennis Centre at Hornsby.
What are some of the ideas you’re planning to introduce at Westport Tennis Club?
I want to make tennis more accessible to people of all ages – residents and visitors alike. I’ll be introducing Hot Shots, Tennis Australia’s national program for children aged 5 – 12, and pre-school classes for kids 4 – 5. The kids hit bigger, lighter balls over smaller nets and it’s easier to rally, because the balls stay in the air longer. Everyone’s playing – there’s no waiting in line for a turn! For high school students aged 12 – 18, there’ll be squads and matches, and I’ll be running all-ages kids’ tennis camps during the school holidays.
For adults, there will be a Ladies Group, and we’ll work on technique and doubles strategy. I’m also starting a Beginner Adult program, which includes a six-week introductory course, including social matches. No prior experience is needed – you just show up with a pair of joggers. I’ll even supply a racquet, if one’s needed. The program will be open to people of all ages, and they will learn the basic of serving, volleying, and ground strokes, as well as basic singles and doubles play.
The program will give first-time players the skills and confidence to join in the social doubles competitions, which run at the club’s 10 courts on Wood Street from 7.30am ’til mid-morning, 7 days a week. The social comp comprises a big network of people from their 40s upwards, and they’re a very welcoming bunch. You’ll quickly be matched up with people at your skill level and be able to play as many matches as you wish each day for $4 for members or $6 for non-members. Visitors are welcome to come along, too. Annual membership is $50.
What is about the Westport Tennis Club that makes it stand out?
The club has 10 modern synthetic grass courts, which can be hired from as little as $5 per player per hour. The complex is perfect for large-scale tournaments, which I intend to promote, but it’s also ideal for a fun hit-up for families or friends. There’s loads of parking, and the fully equipped clubhouse has a kitchen, toilets, change rooms, and showers. And, there’s also a large covered outdoor area, so the club is also ideal as an indoor or outdoor venue for groups.
I think it would be great for corporate get togethers, where companies can meet for some team-building fun on the courts – with or without coaching – and off. The courts and recreational areas are fully fenced, which makes the club great for mums and dads with small kids.
You’re a keen advocate for leading a healthy lifestyle. Do you also like to pass this on to your students?
As you can imagine, coaching and playing tennis keeps you pretty fit. I believe you get more out of your sport if you maintain good physical fitness. The great thing about tennis is that it’s not as hard on the knee joints as some sports, yet it provides a sustained cardio workout. It’s safe for all ages, and you can play it well into your twilight years. That’s the reason we have players at Westport who are still playing well into their 60s, 70s and 80s. They say it keeps them young by maintaining their health, fitness, strength and agility!
Besides maintaining fitness, what are the benefits or advantages of tennis for individuals?
You can play tennis as a serious sport, or for fun and fitness. In addition to the health benefits, tennis also provides lots of social and mental health benefits. You mingle with the other players between matches, so you get to meet lots of very happy people. It’s especially good if you’re new to town or want to widen your circle of friends. Many long friendships have been forged on the court.
Where can people go to find out more information about the club, social or competition tennis, or coaching?
We’ll be holding a free open day on Saturday, April 20 from 10am – 2pm, where people can come and say hello, have a free social game or a hit on the ball machine. All ages are welcome and being the school holidays, I’m hoping we get a good crop of local kids.
Our website: http://www.tennis.com.au/westporttennis/ has information, and people can also learn about coaching and court hire by calling me on 0412 834 336. Most days you’ll usually find me on the court or in the pro shop. They can also get details of social and competition tennis from club secretary, Ruth Dickinson (0405 238 804) or they can call the clubhouse on (02) 6583 3053.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This article can be found in issue 89 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus