Pavilion tennis club honoured for encouraging teens to ‘ Put the knives down and pick rackets up’

Pavilion tennis club honoured for encouraging teens to

Pavilion sports honoured for encouraging teens to put down the knives and pick up rackets

A North London tennis club has become the only London club to be honoured for its work in opening up tennis to the masses, and transforming a derelict park over-run by a gang, into a multi-cultural sporting haven. Pavilion Sports has been honoured by the Lawn Tennis Association as ‘Inaugural Park of the Year.’

When Robby Sukhdeo, himself a Haringey resident, persuaded Haringey council to give him a lease to run the park, he had no idea that he would become embroiled in a battle of willpower with a gang who saw it as their territory, thus making the park a ‘no-go’ area for locals. The Guyanese father of three re-mortgaged his home twice in order to fund the project so that children of all cultures can learn to play tennis for free. Despite weeks and months of disgruntled teenagers vandalising the tennis park, Robby persevered and eventually smoothed relations with gang members to a degree where they began working for him as tennis leaders and café staff. Now many of the former gang members have left Robby as well- adjusted members of society to move on to full-time employment – with references supplied by Robby.

Today Pavilion sports is a thriving community sports club which has successfully challenged the traditionally white middle-class face of tennis. Robby’s good work has resulted in the Tennis Foundation (the charitable arm of the Lawn Tennis Association LTA) pledging to upgrade the court and install floodlights. Crime stoppers have applauded Robby’s work and expressed an interest in working with him to further help the young people in the area.
Executive director of the LTA, Sue Mappin, who selected Pavilion Sports for the award, said: “If I could, I would look to replicate what Robby has created at every local authority park in the country. It’s a great example of a park that used to suffer from antisocial behaviour being transformed into a fantastic community facility.”

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