The Whanganui Tennis Club is again entering an exciting era with new coaching hierarchy embracing a national catch cry that may well earn back the coveted Christie Cup.
The club has employed Jono Spring as the new head coach and he has signed up Whanganui's prodigal tennis son Kyle Butters to help out. Spring's partner Carly Chang will also feature in the frame as development officer for the Whanganui Tennis Association.
Spring was named Tennis Central (Central NZ) Tennis Coach of the Year for the third time this year and will be heading to the New Zealand awards finals in Auckland in December where he will be hoping for third time lucky.
"I am a fulltime professional tennis coach, and have worked for close to 20 years in the Manawatū region as the head coach of initially the Feilding Tennis Club, but more recently have been the head coach of the Manawatū Lawn Tennis Club since 2007," Spring said.
"In that time I have worked with tens of thousands of junior and senior tennis players ranging from beginner level right through to New Zealand national title holders."
Spring has been subsequently head-hunted by the Whanganui Tennis Club to help re-build tennis at all levels in the region.
Butters is one of, if not the most successful New Zealand junior of all time.
By Spring's calculations Butters is the only person that has ever won every national age group singles title twice, with no other New Zealander ever accomplishing this achievement.
However, Butters disputes his new boss' calculations, although concedes his memory of younger years is a tad hazy.
He has recently returned from a four year tennis scholarship at Boise State University after graduation with a business administration degree just two weeks ago.
Chang was also head-hunted by the Whanganui Tennis Association.
"Carly is my partner and works as the business manager for my coaching business, 24 Straight Tennis. Carly has an experienced background in administration and for five years worked as a committee administrator for the Palmerston North City Council. In that time she also trained to become a personal trainer and worked for three years in the fitness industry," Spring said.
Now Chang has been employed by the WTA as development officer, and for the past four months has been working at building tennis in the Whanganui region through an "In schools" coaching programme.
She has also been working on the preparation of the Love Tennis Festival that will be held at the Whanganui Tennis Club this weekend (September 7-8) as well as the Wanganui Open tournament that attracts players from all around New Zealand. The open tournament is typically the largest junior tournament held in central New Zealand outside Wellington, and is popular primarily because it is held over the first weekend of the September school holidays.
The trio will form a strong baseline from which the Whanganui club can again reach the giddy heights of recent years.
After embracing the "Love Tennis" national catch cry, the trio will launch Whanganui's version of the massive open tennis festival this weekend while more than 120 clubs throughout the country host their own.
"The Love Tennis festival is the biggest event of the current tennis calendar," Spring said.
"The brainchild of Tennis Central administrator Mel Jensen has now become a nationwide event for the first time this year. With all of the school promotion and exhibition work that we have been putting in, we're expecting a bumper crowd and a fantastic carnival type atmosphere this weekend.
"There will be multiple mini tennis courts set up for the kids to be able to 'try their hand' at the game with either siblings, parents, or friends. Along with this there will be a bouncy castle, free sausage sizzle, a speed radar to measure the speed of peoples serves, competitions and prizes galore.
"Many clubs around the regions have had hundreds of visitors to their events in previous years, and the Whanganui Tennis Club will be expecting the same."
The much sought after Christie Cup is the next big ticket item on the trio's agenda.
In 1926 the Cup was presented by Dr Howard Christie to New Zealand Lawn Tennis Association to be contested by Taranaki, Manawatu, Whanganui, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay - it is the pinnacle of Central Districts tennis.
The top six men and top six women each play a singles, doubles, and a mixed doubles.
While Butters has retired from professional tennis, he will be available for club competition as will Spring and the Christie Cup was a logical target.
Whanganui made history by winning it in November 2012 with Butters and cousin Paige Hourigan juniors in that historic team. Hourigan also graduated from a four year North American tennis scholarship from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and is currently pursuing a professional career. She is currently ranked No1 woman in New Zealand.
Whanganui retained the Cup for four years, finally relinquishing it to Manawatu in 2017 when attempting to hold it for five consecutive summers.
"Hawkes Bay are the current holders and we are due to play them in February, so as long as they retain it till then, we will be attempting to claim it back - well that's if we make the team," Spring quipped.