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The Only Male in His Life

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Kieran Carroll

I had just turned thirty. My dreams of life on the professional tennis circuit had faded well over a decade before. I found myself back near where I grew up, at the poorer end of the municipality, surrounded by light industry rather than golf courses or beaches.

Each weekday afternoon, and on weekends, I’d open the gate to the tiny and modest St. Stephens Tennis Club. Built at the end of the 60s and attached to the eponymous church a few streets away, the three court club with basic clubhouse was held together by a few energetic, long term members, the annual general meeting presided over by a docile, bearded vicar. Somehow, the club survived financially on a small membership base and me paying a quarterly fee to use the courts. I had been there a few years already, but numbers had remained small. I needed to do something about it, give more of myself to it, and not only boost my income but ensure the survival of the club.

With some assistance from the state association, I did some promotional work at the local primary school and got pamphlets into nearby letterboxes. Some phone enquiries came within days, and the year suddenly looked brighter with new arrivals and a refreshed atmosphere.

Unlike wealthier and larger clubs in the area, St. Stephens didn’t attract those with flashy cars or paying exorbitant private school fees. There were one or two exceptions, people from these strata who felt I was the right coach for their children, but generally, most of the kids were from families where fathers were tradespeople and mothers also worked, to help pay off mortgages.

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