60-second interview with Matthew Last, Head Coach
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
In this interview Saxmundham Tennis Club's Head Coach, Matthew Last, tells us about his passion for the game, how it became his full-time job, and how he's working to get numbers up and more people of all ages and abilities playing the game we love!
Tell us a bit about your background
I've now been at the club for a decade, having joined as a teenager. I've always been very enthusiastic about tennis but didn’t really get much opportunity to play as a junior. I grew up watching Wimbledon but my real love for the game developed from following Andy Murray and watching him change from a gritty underdog who lacked the talent of others his generation, to becoming world number one and a multiple grand slam champion - thanks to his painstaking hard work and commitment to the game.
Andy Murray’s rise coincided with my time at the University of Lincoln, where I studied Sport and Exercise Science. As many people may know, first year of university leaves you with plenty of spare time on your hands, which I usually spent on the tennis court, almost being there on a daily basis which massively helped me improve as a player.
Why have you chosen a career in tennis?
Having fallen in love with the game at Uni, I had the opportunity to help out the coach, John Adams. What started off as a bit of a hobby, as I enjoyed helping John out with the juniors, gradually led to me running a few of my own sessions while completing my LTA Levels 1 and 2 coaching badges. It was only when John left to continue his top coaching at Culford that I seriously considered coaching as a career. For a couple of years I balanced a part-time job at Aldeburgh Hospital with coaching, before finally making the leap to become a full-time coach in 2018, shortly after completing my LTA Level 3, which allowed me to become a Head Coach.
Having just brought a house it was a bit of a gamble going self-employed, especially with the slightly seasonal aspect of outdoor tennis. Luckily, I had the full support of the committee which massively helped me build up the coaching programme to where it is now.
What have you been doing this week?
When I’m not on the court coaching I'm usually on the court playing a match or at home watching some kind of sport. I've been sporting mad from birth, and I also play hockey for Ipswich East Suffolk where I captain the mens' 2nd team which usually fills up Saturdays, especially if it’s away game to St.Albans!
When I do get a day away from sport it usually involves my other hobby, which is wildlife. Being from Suffolk you don’t have to wonder far to find places of outstanding beauty like my favourites Hazelwood Marsh, Captain's Wood and Minsmere. I recently invested in a large lens to try out wildlife photography, all I need now is for the wildlife to be polite enough to sit still when I’m trying to take a photo...
How do you work with the club?
I’m a self-employed coach, and I am the club's Head Coach. Although not directly employed by the club, the committee does help financially by supporting our weekly Teen Tennis session, partly covering the costs of weather-affected group sessions, plus a yearly retainer fee. And, and most importantly, use of the courts and floodlights.
In return, I offer a variety of coaching sessions for both members, non-members and juniors, with the aim of furthering membership numbers, helping to retain the members we already have, and basically, get more people playing tennis.
Tell us about few recent successes…
Saxmundham Tennis Club winning the 2019-2020 Suffolk County LTA Tennis Club of the Year award is a brilliant achievement for any club, let alone one that only a few years ago had half of its current membership. The award, and rapid rise in membership, is something I'm very proud of the club having achieved, with membership now up to 172 with a fantastic variation of ages, playing abilities and backgrounds. This variation is one of the reasons I believe we won the award, as it shows we're a club for anyone and everyone.
The rise in membership can basically be put down to three things: coaching, open days and the committee. Coaching has a very positive impact on playing, from individual sessions that give players the confidence in their game to play freely in club sessions, to group sessions offering top tips and a real social element.
Then there's junior coaching sessions which develop and hopefully keep future membership - and also cardio tennis, which offers great physical and mental benefits. As a club we've also had several very successful open days in the past couple of years which have certainly helped in attracting new players, and a new website to help us further promote the club.
Finally, the committee has to be thanked for its full support for coaching and promotion of the club and for helping to make the club an immensely friendly and inviting place for all players.
What would you say to anyone who wants to improve their game?
Coaching, be it in group or individual sessions, can really up your game! It can help improve your consistency on the baseline, and help you find and develop your strengths to finish off the point. Consistency is a fundamental part of the game; usually the player who makes fewer errors tends to win. However, you also need to balance this with attack to force your opponent into errors of their own.
Name three things you love about your job.
1. Seeing the juniors develop. I was tempted to the club by Paul Khan, who was coach at the time, and attended a few of our after-school tennis sessions at Leiston. Therefore feels like everything has come full circle every-time I attend Alde Valley and deliver after-school sessions myself.
2. The variation in clients throughout a weeks' work, from juniors as young as three starting their journey into tennis, to the senior stalwarts of the game.
3. The members, without all your support I wouldn't have the chance to do a job I love, therefore I’m extremely thankful for all those that pick up a racket and join me on the court.