Saltford tennis ace inspires Uganda youngsters

On a cold afternoon in November, members of Saltford Lawn Tennis Club held a fundraising tournament so their ladies singles champion, Milly Allen, could buy tennis equipment to take to Uganda when she returned home in January for a holiday.

The entrants covered a wide range of playing abilities, consisting of players from junior coaching, adult coaching, club and league players. Members who could not attend also donated prizes for the winners and donated money to the cause.

Milly only started playing tennis in 2016, when a friend visiting her from England introduced her to the game. Having no access to tennis coaching, she learned most of her skills by watching lots of YouTube videos, and practised and practised.

As well as being Saltford ladies singles champion, she is joint holder of the Avon league’s best women’s partnership for the 2022 summer league season.

Milly first came to Bristol in 2018 to study for a degree, and that is when she took advantage of Saltford LTC’s student membership deal and joined the club.

Her introduction to the club was the Monday morning ladies club session, where she found everyone welcoming and friendly.

Having only ever played singles, she had no concept of how to play doubles and was touched by the ladies’ kindness and patience, especially from long-standing member Joyce Pickard, who explained the rules and tactics of doubles play. Milly says she could not have asked for a better club than Saltford LTC.

As Milly never had the opportunity to play tennis when younger, when she returned to Uganda for a holiday in 2021 she decided to share her love of the game with the local children in her home town of Mbarara.

Armed with only three balls and six racquets, she hired one of the two courts at the local tennis club and started junior tennis sessions. She started with four children but numbers quickly grew to 16.

On her second visit home in January this year, Milly took much-needed balls, racquets of various sizes, and a portable junior tennis net, which were all donated by the Saltford club.

As the local tennis courts were unavailable for the first few days, the net was put into immediate use. Milly erected the net in her family garden and the children spent hours having fun playing tennis in the sun.

The Saltford LTC tournament raised just over £200, which may not seem like a huge amount but just £50 secures the court for the children to play tennis for free all year round.

To show their gratitude, the children sent the club a Ugandan tablecloth for the table in the new clubhouse and wrote thank-you messages.

Whilst in Uganda, Milly has kept the club updated on the children’s progress by sending pictures and video messages.

The numbers of children playing tennis continues to increase, and Milly has arranged for the equipment to be stored at the local tennis club while two of her friends, Seka and Abu, carry on her good work.

Seka will be heading off to Kampala soon, where he will take a coaching award, so the future of tennis looks good in Mbarara.

Milly has been a wonderful addition to the tennis community at Saltford and is now sharing her passion for tennis with her community back home in Uganda. The club are proud to be able to support her endeavours in Uganda now and in years to come.