Tim Lord-Hopkins wants to help find a new crop of talented Portsmouth coaches after scooping a prestigious prize at the UK Coaching Awards.
The 21-year-old, from Southsea, claimed the Heather Crouch Young Coach of the Year Award at the glittering ceremony in Marble Arch.
He picked up the gong in front of British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland and four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie.
Lord-Hopkins was recognised for his work in Pompey In The Community’s Respect Programme – having been appointed the youngest-ever national LTA apprentice tennis coach within a community project while still at Portsmouth College two years ago.
He had barely picked up a racquet before his appointment.
But he knew the chance was too good to turn down having focused on football coaching badges at project hub Bransbury Park in the past.
And Lord-Hopkins is already planning ways to extend the programme after his evening with Gatland and Ainslie.
He said: ‘I just fell into tennis after seeing the apprenticeship and the opportunities I had to link up with the LTA.
‘Taking it on in my second year I am training to be a level three coach and want to move on from there.
‘I’d like to focus on coach education and to try to identify more young leaders in the same way I was singled out at Bransbury Park in a kids football programme down there at 15.
‘It is key to keep the ethos going and grow a sustained workforce.
‘I’m hoping to create a more competitive element because at the moment it’s just about the community.
‘Before my apprenticeship I had never played tennis.
‘And from that I’ve designed a programme from which anyone can pick up a racquet down at Bransbury – whether it’s people with disabilities, kids or adults.’
Lord-Hopkins and Gatland, who was named coach of the year, were among 12 winners on the night.
And looking back on what he has achieved in such a short space of time, Lord-Hopkins revealed his aim is to become a shining example for other youngsters to follow his lead.
‘It’s hard to nail down why I’m so passionate about coaching,’ he said.
‘But just giving people an opportunity to play – and a lot of people have never played tennis before – is a thrill.
‘A lot of players are still playing now a year, 18 months on from when I started.
‘Coaches are role models and I hope to be that for more young people in the future.
‘That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get involved.
‘And I love sport, so it was an easy one for me. It’s a passion, even though tennis wasn’t my first choice.’
The 2013 Gillette Great Starts’ campaign celebrates community coaches and inspires the next generation of coaches by providing them with grants to fund their next level qualifications.
Applications for coaching grants available through the scheme will reopen in 2014, visit facebook/com/GilletteUK for more details.