University of East London get high performance tennis status from Tennis Foundation

South Woodford's Lewis Thompson and Hackney's Brielle Koulen have impressed for the University of Ea

South Woodford's Lewis Thompson and Hackney's Brielle Koulen have impressed for the University of East London in tennis. Pic: EWEN LAYCOCK - Credit: Archant

Lewis Thompson and Brielle Koulen have caught the eye playing tennis for the university recently

The University of East London is fast establishing itself as one of the UK’s leading universities for tennis.

Six years ago tennis at UEL consisted of just one men’s team playing in the bottom division. Since then, they have enjoyed successive annual promotions, culminating in their elevation to the Premier Division this year, while the women’s side have reached Division One

They are now one of only nine universities in the UK to have been awarded ‘high performance’ status by the Tennis Foundation, the education arm of the Lawn Tennis Association.

Richard Buscombe, UEL’s head of Applied Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: “We’ve gone from having two players to a squad of 15. We are also, for the first time, in a position to offer the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence, building a pathway to university tennis for 16-18 year olds.”

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It is quite an achievement given that the university that has no heritage in tennis, no courts of its own and is based in a borough with just one tennis club.

But the UEL tennis programme still has access to enviable court facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and the Connaught Club in Chingford.

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Two of current crop are Lewis Thompson from South Woodford and Brielle Koulen from Hackney.

Both are sports scholars, which gives them financial support and flexible study options to help them pursue their sporting ambitions while studying for a degree.

Koulen, 21, is studying Applied Community Sports, a foundation degree delivered in collaboration with West Ham United Foundation, while Thompson is entering the third year of a Sports Development and Physical Education and Development degree.

“My dad wanted me to do something over the summer holiday because I was getting bored, so he took me to Clissold Park in Hackney,” said Koulen.

“I saw these people playing tennis. They had a tennis summer camp going on there, and so my dad signed me up. That’s how it all started.”

Meanwhile Thompson, 20, was invited by talent scouts to come and study at the University of East London.

He said: “As a teenager I did a lot of travelling around Europe playing tournaments, and at 18 I thought I’d take a gap year to see how well I did.

“But that gap year turned out to be really bad because I was injured through the whole of it. At that point I was going to give up tennis and go and get a job, but someone from UEL came to a tournament that I did well at and offered me a scholarship.”

Thompson is now the captain of the tennis team at the university and hoping to help them enjoy more success in the future.

“My ambition for the next year is to win the Premier Division, do as well as we possibly can in the national cup and to try and get UEL Tennis in the top five rankings,” said the South Woodford sportsmen.

“When we started we were ranked below 100, and when we finished last year we were in the top 15, so we’re turning into one of the best tennis universities in the country.”

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