In sport we hear the word 'culture', often used when talking about an AFL side such as the Sydney Swans, a team which takes that word to a whole new meaning. The way in which the Swans go about their business is inspiring and can even boast calming 'Buddie' Franklin's ego to a respectable level that now sees him play as a team man and not an individual. Culture in sport is what makes a team or an individual player disciplined enough to carry out their 'work' with pride.
I think that with a club such as C and S there was an element of wanting to play the game not only to the best of your ability but there was also a sense of pride when you played at that tennis club. Peter Holmes would have that sort of aura surrounding him when he either played out there or when he talked about the game to you during a lesson.
In fact he was that knowledgeable on the game that at times it was just as much an education to listen to his take on the sport in general as it was for him to teach you how to hit a shot better. At less than twenty bucks an hour with Pete it was ridiculously great value.
Peter never charged much for a lesson because he got so many of them plus he wasn't full of his own self importance as many coaches are today. He knew that tennis took time to learn, a realist of the sport and he also knew that affordability was a big factor in keeping students in the game.
I would often ride my bike to C and S, possibly 15 k's from my house as a warm up, do a session with Pete then ride home, fit as a fiddle back then. What I liked so much about what Holmsey did on court was his variety. I recall one day he didn't come out with his usual basket of tennis balls, just his racket and a new tin of balls. 'Two sets Thommo, let's do this, think about what I have taught you'. He smashed me but boy it was an education of sorts. 'So this is why Pete doesn't want me to just look good in practice ey ? A dose of reality'...... ( Tough to grasp back then, easy to understand now ).
I suppose Pete instilled a type of culture at C and S that did not reward mediocrity because he did not accept mediocrity from you in a session. I believe I adopted his hard nosed approach to coaching as I am certain one day he took me home early because I cracked the shits with the game and threw a tantrum. That was just me wanting to get better and getting frustrated because it didn't happen over night.
I have many memories of C and S and they all involved Holmsey and my school buddies who lived for the sport and in particular the Saturday of each week. Once I became strong enough I would pack my lunch and play all day, perhaps 6 hours, maybe more. At afternoon tea time I would grab someone and we would play singles for 20 minutes, anything to milk the day for what it was worth.
I liken the time at C and S to what a surfer would do at a beach pumping with good waves all day as I am certain that I was looking for the perfect ride with a two handed backhand.
Holmsey was the equivalent of a surfing 'Zen Master', someone we all idolised, someone who we looked up to and strived to become as good as one day because he won everything locally, he was the bench mark of local tennis. He was the 'rock', the one who you would gauge your form against as to whether or not you should continue with it or go and find a team sport.
I loved the way Pete would teach you something and then watch as he delivered it in a tournament or pennant match exactly the way he described it to you in a session. Pete typified a tennis coach of that era who made a point of walking and not just talking, that back then was important, not so much now days.
The culture of the C and S Tennis Club in the 80's in particular could never be questioned as far as professionalism was concerned and neither could the strength of the playing groups. By that I mean the Junior Pennant teams as well as the Senior teams, both women's and men's who had a wall full of flags pinned up around the club house for all to see from their on court exploits. The argument could be said that it's not all about winning however back then it was almost a given that C and S teams would win the flag just about every season due to their programs.
Having senior pennant teams train on the courts next door to you as a kid was invaluable because it gave you a sense of what was required. At times it was a lesson in itself to just watch the best men from our club practice particularly when Pete organised the drills as they were 'reality' drills, ones that would help you in a pennant match or a tournament.
Again I never compare myself to Pete's coaching ability but I have never used a 'Walt Disney' drill that you can grab out of a Weetbix packet that looks dazzling but never really helps a player in a match.
So why was the C and S Tennis Club on Albany Highway so good ? It was like a burger with the lot, it had everything including the extra bacon, egg and sauce, it was outrageously appealing to someone wanting to take their tennis as far as they possibly could because quite frankly the club was King. Peter Holmes was a man who loved his tennis to such an extent that it oozed out of him when he either played on a Saturday arvo, a pennant match or a local tournament as well as when he fed you a ball in a drill.
He was a man who basically single- handedly kept a tennis club running and kept people coming through the gates to either join the club or experience his brilliant teaching. There was definitely an aura about that tennis club on the highway, a culture that will be difficult to replicate in this Region as the sport now is a pale shadow of it's former self.....
Chapter 4 to follow....