Tennis coach Alex Harkins has been awarded the Tloc Prophit Trophy for helping make Edinburgh’s revamped Meadows courts a centre of excellence.
The award, which commemorates late Evening News tennis correspondent Reg Prophit, and Ignacy Tłoczynski, a former French Open quarter-finalist who taught at Craiglockhart, is given annually to the person or team who contributes most to tennis in the Edinburgh area.
Harkins, one of two Edinburgh Leisure coaches, along with Anna Myatt, has been given the accolade at a time when the Meadows has just installed floodlights and new clubhouse facilities as part of a £200,000 development.
Harkins said: “I regard the award as recognition of Edinburgh Leisure’s commitment to tennis and it is a real honour to follow on from some outstanding previous recipients.”
Helping club players improve has had a special appeal for the one-time organiser of the award-winning East Lothian Tennis Championships and this latest accolade comes on top of becoming the first person in Scotland and one of only a handful in Britain to gain the level five Master Club Coach award.
In proving his worth, Harkins admits he took a gamble. “I took my first coaching badge in 1987 and, 16 years later, I found myself giving up a secure job at Standard Life to coach at the newly-opened David Lloyd Rackets Club in Corstorphine. For a while it was a hand-to-mouth existence until I was able to build up a clientele.
“But gradually things developed and it was great to see people being introduced to tennis from different sporting backgrounds.
“Similarly, at the Meadows it hasn’t so far been about producing full-time players, rather stimulating grassroots interest helped by funding from sportsscotland, tennis authorities and Edinburgh Leisure as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy funding.”
In 2002, the Meadows City Tennis club started as a pilot site as part of a new LTA initiative and Alex was in the forefront of this move in Edinburgh towards community tennis.
Now there are park tennis sites in Inverleith, St Margaret’s, Leith Links and Victoria Park, much of the growth due to the success of that original site in the Meadows which encouraged Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Leisure to support tennis in the city.
“A highlight came in 2003 when the Meadows was named LTA club of the year,” added Harkins. “Now the new lights are being so well used with groups from clubs around the city and the student community making tennis an all-year game outdoors.”
Prophit was devoted to local tennis. As well as being a Wimbledon umpire he personally financed the Edinburgh Grasscourts Championships as a means of improving the prospects of east teams in the annual Inter-County Championships. Ignacy Tłoczynski was a Polish Davis Cup player who settled in Edinburgh after the Second World war and, as well as reaching the quarters at Roland Garros, played in the third round of the Wimbledon singles three times. The men were firm friends and their contributions are recognised by the trophy. Prophit died in 1998 and Tłoczynski in 2001.