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    The 'Ghosts' of Lawn Tennis Past: Exploring the Forgotten Lives of Early Working- Class Coaching-Professionals

    Eaves, SJ, Lake, RJ and Cowdrey, S (2016) The 'Ghosts' of Lawn Tennis Past: Exploring the Forgotten Lives of Early Working- Class Coaching-Professionals. Sport in History, 36 (4). pp. 498-521. ISSN 1746-0271


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    This article examines the lives of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century lawn tennis coaching-professionals, notably Tom Burke, Harry Cowdrey, Charles Haggett and George Kerr. These men, considered equally if not more gifted than the first-ranked amateur players of the period, have received scant attention or recognition, either as ‘expert’ players or for their role as coaches/ instructors within the ‘amateur’ game. Ostensibly, these working-class boys/ men sought employment in clubs, as ball-boys, groundskeepers, stringers and instructors, but, being immediately classified as ‘professionals’, were subsequently marginalised within clubs and barred from amateur competitions. Few outside of the club environs encountered them, few observed or learned of their skills, and fewer still reported their exploits. While many of the top amateur players of the period recognised the need for coaching-professionals, the British Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) was intransigent. They staunchly refused to sanction professional competitions in Britain, fearing they would provide a pathway away from amateurism, and propel the amateur to seek remuneration from their tennis. Coachingprofessionals had little choice but to remain as ‘servants’ within their clubs, confined by the rigid class system and unyielding amateur ethos. Hitherto largely ignored within lawn tennis historiography, these men are the ‘ghosts’ of lawn tennis past.

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