Cardiff Lawn Tennis Club, which is situated in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, is the largest private members tennis club in Wales with over 450 members.
As it is effectively a destination tennis club, with no large residential complexes nearby, historically the majority of the social tennis was played by various informal "groups" that sprang up over the years. Over time these groups became relatively self sufficient, both from a tennis and social perspective and support for Club organised events such as social evenings, mix-ins and even club tournaments gradually dwindled.
As a consequence, it became increasingly difficult as a new member to integrate into the Club at any level unless you were fortunate enough to already know someone in the Club who could introduce you.
Our box league was set up to provide a platform for members, both new and existing, to meet each other and play regular competitive tennis. The structure of the league is quite simple and flexible and can be expanded easily to cater for new entrants.
The box league is open to all members aged 16 and over, both male and female. At the current time we have 17 boxes, each comprising 4 players and arranged into 9 divisions both East and West feeding into a Champions League at the top. We play 4 "seasons" through the winter months with each season lasting c.6 weeks. football news
Every season the members of each box play each other over 3 sets, with the deciding set being played as a Champions tie-break. The winner is then responsible for posting the result together with a match report which in turn automatically emails all other members of the league so everyone is kept up to date with what is happening on a real time basis. The match reports are usually amusing, rarely factual (apart from the score) and sometimes take longer to write than the matches took to play but it´s all part of what makes this box league so special.
The scoring system reflects our overall objectives for the box league so is designed to reward players for playing as well as reflecting the actual results with 1 point being awarded to each player for completing the fixture and then 1 point for each set won.
At the end of the season the winner of the box is promoted, the runner up stays in the same box, third place is transferred East to West or vice versa, and bottom place gets relegated. This cycle is one of the key features of the box league because it not only ensures that players rapidly reach a level which is competitive for the standard they play at, but it also ensures that box league members meet and play 3 different people every season which is important from a social perspective.
Impact on the Club
The box league is now entering its 3th year of operation and I don´t think any of us involved in the running of the Club ever imagined what a positive impact the box league would have on the Club when we introduced it.
We now have 68 players aged 16 to 80 competing in the box league and by the end of April 2014 we will have played 1,000 competitive singles matches! If you add this on to all the team tennis that is being played it is safe to say that there is no tennis club in Wales playing more competitive tennis than Cardiff Lawn Tennis Club. As impressive as this statistic undoubtedly is, it would be wrong to focus on this alone as a measure of the success of the box league because there are lots of indirect benefits which cannot be easily quantified but which nevertheless are hugely important to the continued success of our Club, including:-
- We now have a mechanism to quickly integrate new members into the club both from a tennis and social perspective. Probably 30% of our box league players have been members for less than 3 years.
- The strength and depth of the pool of players available and willing to play team tennis has increased. Box league members now captain and form the core of most of the numerous teams we run at this Club throughout the summer and winter across all formats - men´s , ladies, mixed and vets
- There is no doubt that the Club is a much more social place. The change in management and committee some 3 years ago had a big impact on this but the box league has played an important role in this transition by bringing members together both on and off the court and giving them a common interest. All of the Club´s events are better supported than ever before whether it is social evenings, mixing, club tournaments or men´s and ladies practice evenings and the majority of the members who regularly turn up and support these events are box league players. Our box league Christmas party, which last year included the announcement of our "box league personality of the year" together with a "show trial" by a real judge and barrister of our Chairman for alleged persistent breaches of the box league rules, was the best attended social event of the year. If you are interested he was eventually found not guilty!
Over the last 3 years we have proved at Cardiff Lawn Tennis Club that if you get the tennis right then everything else will follow. We now have a club that is managed and run by tennis players for tennis players of all ages and abilities. The box league has played an important role by dramatically increasing not just the amount of competitive tennis being played, but also the number of people playing competitive tennis and by doing so it has brought members together. Our box league is not just for the tennis elite it is for everyone - we have 9 levels and can cater for all abilities!
If you need any further convincing of what a difference the box league has made to our club then come down on any Saturday morning. All 11 of our courts will be busy and at least 4 or 5 of the matches going on will be box league matches. It´s easy to tell which ones they are, they will be the ones where the players are sweating, looking nervous and running down every ball and the ones where people are watching the action from the sidelines or from the club house patio drinking their coffee, because they will all know that the match means something and they will be interested in the outcome. Now that´s what I call a proper tennis club!!
Box-League Creator and Committee Member