Game, set, match

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Game, set, match

Last hoorah: Mark and Annette Sheppard will leave the Leongatha courts, handing over to Matthew Pocklington (left).

By Isaac McCallum
It is the end of an era for Mark Sheppard Tennis Coaching in Leongatha.
Mark and Annette Sheppard have handed over the reins to successor Matthew Pocklington, and the name will change to South Gippsland Tennis Coaching.
The move comes as the couple is spending increasing amounts of time in Melbourne and Geelong, coaching.
Mark says that they have no issues leaving the club as it is, but they will miss the friends they have made along the journey.
“We’ve been involved in coaching in Leongatha for 30 years, we’ve met so many great people, and it really is a tough emotional decision to make.”
Both said that hard workers such as former president George Hines, current secretary Marge Barter, and the late Barb Ball deserved a huge pat on the back for the efforts they have put in to tennis in Leongatha.
Marge Barter said that they too deserved recognition for their work.
“The Sheppard family has contributed hugely to tennis in the area. They’ve provided a great service for a long time now,” she said.
As coaches, the Sheppards have taken over 1400 of their students overseas on tours in the last 20 years, an opportunity that would have otherwise passed them by.
“The kids all love them, and it will be quite different without them. Mark especially, he is such a vibrant character,” Marge said.
But Mark and Annette believe that the club and the coaching available at the moment are strong enough to take the club into the future without them.
“The club and the coaching have never been so healthy so we’re happy to be leaving it in a good state,” Mark said.
They both believe that the current administration is doing a fantastic job, and in particular Frank Dekker, Karsten and Michelle Krohn.
Mark says the club is in “great hands”, with assistant coaches like Michael Grist who is one of the “funniest and bravest men” he has ever met.
The Sheppard’s coaching philosophy is a simple one: to increase participation, enjoyment and finally, the standard of tennis.
That looks set to continue with Matthew Pocklington, who has worked with the couple for the last nine years, and is very appreciative of the effort they have put in.
“I’m very excited to be taking over, I’ll just be continuing along with the plan at the moment, and in the future I might implement a few ideas of my own,” he said.
Mark said that handing the leadership over to Pocklington was a “no-brainer”, as it was a natural progression.
“He’s ready to do the job, and we’re sure he’ll be fine. He’s been a very successful tennis player, and he’s USPTA qualified,” Sheppard said.
The coaching role in Leongatha will be hard to give away for Mark and Annette, who sincerely love the people they have met, but coaching work in Melbourne and Geelong is sure to keep them busy.
The teaching position hasn’t always been an armchair ride, but both agreed that it has been a very rewarding experience so far.
“It’s great to hear feedback from families that the kids are enjoying our coaching,” Annette said.
Mark Sheppard mentioned that some of his most challenging moments came coaching son James, 15, but that the thrill of watching him succeed is the ultimate reward.
“I guess seeing your kids do well is the most rewarding thing. Sometimes we go head to head but it’s great to see him do well,” he said.
James is currently ranked in the top 300 tennis players in Australia, and Mark will be hoping to work with him more closely now to improve that position.
Annette’s most rewarding moments come from the children in the years five to seven age bracket.
“Sometimes mums and dads will turn up and tell us the kids have been nagging them all week about tennis practice on a Monday.
“It really is a joy to watch them when they hit a good shot, or do something they’re really proud of,” Annette said.
The couple has coached thousands upon thousands of kids, but they say that they share a special relationship with each one.
“We tend to form a great affinity with the kids, we give them nicknames and it’s great to hear the feedback from the parents,” Mark said.
Mark and Annette have taught kids who have then grown up and years later brought their own children along.
One particular family that Mark will miss is the Monaghans, with whom he has shared a great relationship and has a great fondness for.
The Sheppards will miss their coaching in Leongatha, but no doubt not nearly as much as they’ll be missed here.

Short URL: http://www.thestar.com.au/?p=358

Posted by SiteAdmin on Jul 13 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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