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Ollie Toms: Stansted Tennis Club pays tribute to inspirational coach and plants tree in his memory at remembrance event





A tree has been planted at Stansted Tennis Club in memory of coach Ollie Toms, who died four months ago aged just 35.

Ollie’s parents, Glenis and Peter, and his wife, Natalie, attended a remembrance ceremony on Thursday evening (February 15) along with 60 children and adults who had come to know and love him.

Youngsters wrote messages for Ollie which were clipped on a board for his family to read, and club chair James Hogg paid tribute.

Ollie’s parents, Glenis and Pete, by the tree planted in memory of their son
Ollie’s parents, Glenis and Pete, by the tree planted in memory of their son

“The main purpose of the event was to give the youngsters Ollie coached at Stansted an opportunity to express how they felt about him and their emotions through talking, writing messages about him (which will go into a remembrance book), then playing some tennis,” said Mr Hogg.

“Ollie’s parents, wife and other family members attended. It was lovely to have them there and they spoke to many of the people present. I think it meant a lot to them.”

A Photinia ‘red robin’ tree was planted in the grounds of the Cambridge Road club and a plaque placed underneath. An inscription written by Louise Chalk, who organised the event, reads: “In loving memory of our wonderful coach and good friend. You were taken too soon, but will stay in our hearts forever.”

Coach Ollie Toms helped boost the number of young members at Stansted Tennis Club
Coach Ollie Toms helped boost the number of young members at Stansted Tennis Club

Mr Hogg added: “We often sit in this area, watching tennis or walking past it to the car park, so it will remain as a reminder for many years to come.

“To say that Ollie was an extraordinary person would be an understatement. In our lifetimes, we all meet people whom we would describe as inspirational. They are people whom you instinctively know are special. They are people you always remember. In every way, Ollie is one of those people. Very much one of a kind, completely unique and totally irreplaceable.”

Ollie died on October 6, five days after an emergency heart-related operation. His death was described as a “huge loss and shocking”.

He worked as a coach at Newport, Much Hadham and Stansted, which he joined in 2018, initially starting up a cardio tennis club. At this time, junior coaching had ceased so Ollie developed a plan to encourage youngsters back into the game. His efforts resulted in a junior section numbering 85.

Ollie’s wife, Natalie, reading the messages and memories of her husband
Ollie’s wife, Natalie, reading the messages and memories of her husband

In his address, Mr Hogg said: “Ollie possessed extraordinary skills in the way he engaged with people at all levels. He had a unique ability to encourage and nurture people, regardless of their abilities or age. He was someone who put you at ease immediately and who you thought of as a friend from the outset.

“On many occasions I heard people say how he brightened their lives, even at times of real darkness. This was particularly the case during the Covid lockdowns, when he kept in touch through video messages and encouraging people to do tennis exercises from home.

“There’s no doubt that Ollie’s contribution to tennis is immeasurable and his legacy will be felt by many people for years to come. Every time I play tennis, I hear his voice giving some guidance or amusing anecdote, so he’s always there.

Ollie Toms passed away in October
Ollie Toms passed away in October

“Ollie has been a great ambassador for the sport and in my opinion could not have done more. He was by any measure an extraordinary person and an inspiration to us all. He possessed a maturity beyond his years and I have no doubt would have gone on to do many more great things for the sport he loved.”

Last year, in recognition of his achievements, Ollie was awarded the Essex Tennis Commendation Award 2024. Supported by his parents, the club has nominated him for the Lawn Tennis Association’s President’s Award.

Coaches Dan Warwick and Phil Dillon
Coaches Dan Warwick and Phil Dillon

The evening was also a chance for the club to explain how it was planning to continue Ollie’s coaching legacy and introduced its four new volunteer coaches: Phil Dillon, Dan Warwick, James Thorp and Martyn Taplin. They will be helped by young assistants Alex and Ellen Rankin and Melissa Condie.

In October, less than a fortnight after Ollie’s death, young tennis players in Much Hadham drew tributes in chalk to him at a gathering organised by fellow Much Hadham coach Caroline Daniell, who first met Ollie when he took over from her in 2021 while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. They then teamed up to teach together on Friday afternoons.

Drawings of tennis balls and rackets with the words ‘The best coach’ and ‘We love Ollie’ were among the colourful messages – along with tennis balls arranged in a heart shape and Ollie’s initials on the court fencing – to help the youngsters as they grieved the passing of their adored coach.

Practice gets under way
Practice gets under way
Ollie’s wife Natalie by the red robin tree
Ollie’s wife Natalie by the red robin tree
Louise Chalk, who organised the remembrance evening
Louise Chalk, who organised the remembrance evening
Stansted Tennis Club chairman Jamie Hogg pays tribute to Ollie
Stansted Tennis Club chairman Jamie Hogg pays tribute to Ollie
Youngsters play tennis in honour of their late coach Ollie Toms
Youngsters play tennis in honour of their late coach Ollie Toms
A young player enjoys a knock-about on the courts
A young player enjoys a knock-about on the courts

Most pictures by Gerred Gilronan



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