Fletcher sets sights on Euros
The appointment of Libby Fletcher as co-coach to the GB women’s padel squad marked a significant step in the development of the game in the UK; she’s the first female in the role and has her sights set on nurturing talent. The Bandeja Chief Writer Robert Mitchell reports.
Libby has promised to use her new role as GB Women’s co-coach to build a structure that will nurture existing elite players and fast-track emerging talent through to the national set-up.
As revealed exclusively by The Bandeja, the Tennis World Middlesbrough ace, who helped successfully coach the GB Women’s Seniors to a fine fifth place finish at the first European Seniors Championships in Alicante recently, has been installed as the first ever female coach in the national ‘open’ team set-up.
Her appointment comes after a major shake-up in structure by new LTA Padel Performance manager Matt Stanforth who views Libby’s background as a highly respected performance coach on the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Tour as pivotal to growing the competitive game and structure needed in female padel in the UK.
Speaking exclusively to The Bandeja, Libby said: “What is really exciting is the opportunity to build a team with better organisation and planning and create a structure that will support squad players all year round and also help provide a more streamlined access to the squad for those players who are aspiring to it.
“From my background we will bring a professional element to this in terms of player support. Matt and I have already brought in a strength and conditioning coach with some excellent ideas and we have run an open day with a company where the girls have been fitness tested. We will also have physio support,” added Libby. “On top of that we will have player development plans for all squad members, with short and long term goals, tournament planning and training camps. The structure will be set to help support players to improve their game, so big changes in organisation, structure and then schedules.”
Europeans in sight
As the countdown to October’s European championships clicks on, the level of detail-orientated nous which Libby brings from her days on the WTA tour, where she was personal coach to GB No 1 tennis doubles player Jocelyn Rae, must surely be exciting to those players already within the national set-up.
“Counting down to the European Championships we are looking at having a camp every six weeks or so with something overseas and inviting international players over here,” explained Libby. “The players are embracing the new professionalism we have brought to the programme; we held an open day at We Are Padel (Derby) with more than 30 players and including strength and conditioning work and court time. And at the beginning of this month we had our first training camp at the NTC.
“It’s an exciting time for British padel and with Matt arriving, and all the experience he brings of international sport to that role, this is the beginning of the journey for our team and our players. Personally it is just so exciting to bring my experience to this set up and to get really immersed in all of that,” concluded Libby.
With former assistant national coach Max Lutostsanski moving on to a management role at soon-to-open Padium, London’s most exciting padel club opening this year, and Alvaro Fernandez Guerrero reassigned from head to co national coach there is realignment at the top of the women’s coaching structure.
Libby is positive about the set-up: “Alvaro and I both bring things to the table. My background is performance tennis and I worked on the WTA Tour with high level tennis players and then took up padel myself and was involved with the open team last year. From that I had ideas of what I wanted to bring to the role and how we could improve on last year.
“Now we are encouraging the girls to play in more international padel tournaments and FIP events, as that is what we need from them, while also making sure they have training bases, support from coaches and also from the GB coaches as well.
“International exposure will also be key for our girls; we have an improving domestic competitive scene but what we need now is the girls competing in Europe. We know the Europeans will be in October, we just don’t know where at this point. The whole structure is being set to allow the players to be as good as they possibly can be at the Europeans.”
Although Aimee Gibson, the new domestic No 1 ranked player, has just turned pro, the bulk of the players at the top of the GB female game are still, in essence, amateur and with work commitments.
Libby admitted this is something that has to be worked around: “We have to work within their schedules at the moment. It is fantastic that Aimee turned pro and we have Victoria Nicholas and Catherine Rose and some of the top players in our squad who are trying to fit their work schedules around travelling abroad and playing international tournaments with the right level of player. At the moment we need to accommodate that but we have already seen Aimee go pro and hopefully there will be more girls following her.”
It’s not surprising that with all these developing demands the new role has caused Libby to call time on her own ‘open’ international career: “At 45 I’ve decided to retire from playing in the Open team.
“The playing landscape has really changed over the last year and my focus must be on the new role although I am looking forward to continuing training with them.
“I will still play seniors and I will continue coaching with them but I’m really looking forward to this role, it is just such an exciting time for the women’s game in the UK.”
All at The Bandeja wish Libby the very best of luck! 🎾