Over the last year, getting active hasn’t been the easiest of tasks for children in Essex, as national lockdowns and local restrictions have meant that access to fun and safe activities have been limited. Thankfully, people like Tom Littlewood – a 23 year old primary school teacher and tennis coach from Halstead – have put in hard work, time and dedication to keep our kids moving. That’s why Active Essex have awarded Tom March’s ‘One in a Million’ Award.

Tom’s mum was a keen tennis player and member at the local tennis club. He followed in her footsteps and started playing at their club from the age of six. From the age of 16, he helped out on Saturday mornings and soon began his coaching badges. He continued to coach at University and has done so ever since.

He is now a LTA qualified tennis coach with his own club. TennisLessons4u in Halstead offers coaching sessions to schools in the area year round – however the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to their activity sessions. That wasn’t going to stop Tom and the team. Since the first lockdown in March last year, Tom has offered pre-recorded and live tennis coaching sessions to children of all ages and abilities for free. The videos were mainly focussed on keeping kids active when time, resources and contact was limited.

The videos were promoted locally at first, but they were so popular and helpful that they were shared widely across the county. The videos have now been accessed by over 450 schools, with hundreds of children taking part. Tom said: “Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on my Tennis Coaching. I was no longer able to run lessons or holiday camps and I thought this would be a lovely way to give back to the community who have supported me in building up Earls Colne Tennis Club over the past few years.”

Tom hopes that the videos will help not only to keep kids active, but to raise awareness of his favourite sport. He wants children across Essex to get involved with their local tennis clubs and coaches and to get as much out of the sport as he has.

Graham Keen, Participation Development Officer at the LTA said: “Tom is doing an incredible job at getting people up off their feet and active by doing at home tennis activities during lockdown. Tom has embraced the opportunity and created fun and exciting free online sessions for both nursery, primary and secondary age children. He even gets the parents and grandparents involved too. Whatever you’ve got lying around the house Tom will find a way to make a fun tennis challenge out of it! He brings his positive vibe and energy to every session and makes everyone feel included no matter who’s watching at home.

Tom is a credit to tennis coaching, and we are extremely proud of the work he has put in to make his online tennis at home sessions successful.”

Once things are back to as normal as possible, Tom is looking to work with the LTA in developing a teaching scheme, aiming to up-skill teachers and support them with links to clubs and tournaments. He has also just set up an initiative – Tennis Unlocked – which involves working with other tennis coaches to try to reach as many primary schools as they can.

Lee Monk, Assistant Relationship Manager at Active Essex said: “Tom’s dedication to keep his local community active during the lockdown is truly inspiring. Tom’s proactiveness and willingness to give up his time to create fun and exciting tennis activities from home for people to access for free is having a massive impact in keeping Essex Active.”

We at Active Essex are so grateful to Tom for his hard work and dedication to keeping Essex active, and want to thank him for inspiring those around him.