Spanish adventure is a racket for Kirkcaldy teen Sam
Balwearie High pupil Sam Whitton (14) hopes to earn himself a full-time place at a tennis academy in Spain after showing an aptitude for the sport since starting playing in 2010.
He said: “I have just returned from a week-long training camp trial at Soto Tennis Academy in the South of Spain and have been invited to attend on a full-time basis.
“Being a full-time student would mean combining school at the Sotogrande International School and tennis at the academy, participating in their collaborative ACES programme.
“My ambition is to attend a US College to gain a degree and then eventually become a professional tennis player.
“I believe I have the attributes to be able to give myself the best possible opportunity to achieve this outcome - I am hard-working, committed and dedicated.”
His early forays into tennis have been helped by his dad Gary, who quit his job to take on a full-time role as a programme coordinator at Kirkcaldy Tennis Club.
“I only got involved when Sam and his brother Dean started playing in 2010,” he said, “they wanted to play a bit more than they could at the club so I took my coaching badges and put on extra class. It led to me changing my career completely.”
Gary said that such is the level of Sam’s commitment, that it was the teenager who discovered the tennis academy himself.
“Sam had been looking at tennis academies – without us knowing! He been researching them and just getting as much information as he could.
“He decided that he liked the look of the Soto Tennis Academy at Sotogrande in the south of Spain.
“We realised though that cost was going to be quite prohibitive, it’s £40,000 a year to go full time, so we decided that for his Christmas we would get him a week there, which he did at the start of June.
“They won’t take anybody at the academy unless they think they will fit in with their ethos, as well as having the ability, and they were really impressed with Sam.
“Unfortunately, they don’t offer scholarships, however they have just been taken over by new owners and the director of the tennis academy is going to speak to them about scholarships and Sam would be the type of pupil that he would put forward to receive one.
“That isn’t until November though, and even then it would have to be a full scholarship otherwise we would struggle to afford it.”
A ‘Go Fund Me’ page has been launched by the family to try and help cover the costs of Sam’s trips to Spain.
“We’ve had a few donations so far,” Gary said, “we’ve set a target of £2000. We’ve already managed to cover a visit in October, but any money will go to future trips.
“And we’re also going to write to local companies in try to raise a bit more funding and try and get him out there as often as possible.”
Sam showed the potential he has at the weekend by winning the U14 Road To Wimbledon County Finals for the east of Scotland on Sunday, with a performance that Gary described as “fantastic”.
In the final Sam won 6-2 6-1 and has now qualified to play on the grass courts at Wimbledon in August against the winners from all of the other counties in the UK.
One of Sam’s coaches, Alan Russell of Dunfermline Tennis Club, also praised his ability, saying he was fiercely committed to being a top tennis player.
“He’s training as hard as any young player I’ve seen and he’s making great progress,” he said.
“The development in his game over the last year is remarkable and he’s on track to be very good indeed.”
Gary admitted that although the possibility of Sam moving to Spain would be a wrench for the family, it’s something he would give his full backing to.
“It’s something that he wants to do so we would never stand in his way.
“The academy director is very nice so I would have no qualms about him looking after Sam over there.
“The world is a much smaller place now with Skype and Facetime, and we would go to Spain as often as we could. But I think it would be a bit easier for me than it would for his mum!”
If you would like to donate, go to the ‘Go Fund Me’ website and search for ‘Sam’s Tennis Journey’.