Mason Moore | Hinckley Reporter | 30 November 2021
A HINCKLEY TOWN Tennis Club member and coach has won the BBC East Midlands Sports Personality of the Year ‘Unsung Hero’ award for 2021.
John McGowan, from Hinckley, has joined a ‘growing’ group of local sporting unsung heroes – and is now the borough’s sixth regional winner in 10 years to receive the ‘prestigious’ honour.
He was appointed Chair of the Town Tennis Club back in 2012, following his retirement, with a mission to keep the club accessible and affordable for all.
John received his nomination for the ‘Unsung Hero’ award from Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s Health and Recreation Manager, Graeme Chilvers.
He has been highly praised for bringing free tennis coaching sessions for disabled players to the club, which have been running for 11 years.
A Council spokesperson claimed in a statement that the tennis sessions for disabled players is the “biggest impact and life-changing development” that he has introduced.
Mr. McGowan started the sessions for day care groups and Special Educational Need (SEN) schools.
These free drop-in sessions continue to be held, on Saturday mornings, and they run for 10 hours every week and average 31 players.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, John was determined to make sure that the disabled groups were able to restart their sessions as soon as possible.
He recognised that the sessions are important to the individuals, as they provide a healthy, fun, accepting and social outlet for the participants to look forward to each week.
The sessions have been financed through grants that John had applied for from the Dan Maskell Trust, as well as other local sources, such as Bright Ideas for Tennis – a charity who provide training in disability coaching for coaches and volunteers.
The Town Tennis Club recently invested in a tennis wheelchair to enable more youngsters to join in with the sessions.
It was purchased with a £600 grant in funding secured by John after he applied to the National Lottery Community Fund for Local Connections.
John was recently thanked by Bright Ideas for Tennis for his ‘outstanding’ work, who handed him a selection of sought-after tennis items.
As well as his efforts in ensuring that local disabled people are able to play tennis, John helps schools out with sessions, as he co-ordinates annual tennis coaching for 12 local schools across the borough of Hinckley and Bosworth.
He also helped the club increase their membership by holding open days, supporting fun days in park tennis courts to raise awareness of the club, and impressively raised over £42,000 to improve the floodlights, so members can train and play in the winter.
Coun. Keith Nichols, the Borough Council’s Executive Member for Leisure, said: “Huge congratulations to John for this award.
“It is rightly deserved for the time and enthusiasm he has dedicated to Hinckley Tennis Club, its members and the local community.
“The work that goes on behind the scenes to undertake all these activities and fundraising is immeasurable and his nomination is just a small way of thanking him – a true ‘unsung’ hero.
“On behalf of everyone in the borough, good luck in the national awards.”
John will represent the East Midlands when an overall Unsung Hero will be announced at the national BBC Sports Personality Awards to be held on Sunday 19 December.