UK Racketlon is giving notice that we will be called an Extraordinary General Meeting on Friday 5th May (the first day of the English Open). An agenda for this meeting will be published next week. Why are we having an EGM? Well after 12 years as the beating heart of UK Racketlon, Keith Lesser is standing down from the board. Keith had written a piece for me to upload, but he isn’t one for blowing his own trumpet and so it is only fair that I expand on the article somewhat (sorry Keith…).
Keith on his way to taking Essex to the 2016 County Championship Title
If you or someone you know plays and enjoys Racketlon here in the UK, then they owe that in the majority to Keith. He wasn’t a founding member of the Racketlon scene in the UK, but he has pushed this sport along with his huge energy, commitment and a tenacity he also brings to his on court play. Everything we consider to be UK Rackletlon these days, the UK Tour, the website, Facebook, Twitter (especially Twitter) was pretty much Keith’s baby. For him it was a chance to exercise his entrepreneurial muscles as it provided what he describes as “a fascinating challenge”. Keith inherited a fledgling organisation, Stuart Foster (our honorary president) and Katy Buchanan had created an initial website and we had already seen 3 English Open’s played, but Keith came in and drove a transformation that has made UK Racketlon the shining example of how to run a national Racketlon Federation.
Within three years the tour was flourishing, with a minimum of 10 events a year from 2007 onwards, and the BBC came along to the English Open to see more about the sport. It would have been easy at this point for Keith to have rested on his laurels but instead he drove it onwards, sometimes with just his energy and determination alone. He has a couple of great qualities which ensured he flourished in the role and that UK Racketlon flourished with him. He is an excellent spotter of talent, helping to bring new people into the organising structure and at the same time he knows when to let those people run with their skill sets within the organisation. Most importantly, Keith has ensured that UK Racketlon is about the players and in particular, all players, whether you are the world number 1 or a newcomer who has never picked up a racket. This is not always the case and being different (and belligerently so about it), has caused him to be out on a limb at times, but it has never stopped Keith sharing his opinion on what is best for Racketlon. He has always been driven by a desire to ensure that everyone enjoys their experience, and wishes to return to play again. It is (in my opinion) the principle reason for the Racketlon scene in the UK being the biggest and the best in the world, and it all traces back to Keith.
For Keith, his main highlight was the 2014 World Championships hosted at the Surrey Sports Park, when UK Racketlon pulled off a sensational event, underlying how the organisation of the sport had transformed from a couple of people to a strong team of ten or so player organisers covering the marketing, promotion, scheduling, volunteers (and weather forecasting…) for the tournament. Keith admits he ideally would have handed over the reins back after that event, but he realised that there was one last challenge to face, how we translated the success of the World Championships into further growth of the sport in the UK. This has been achieved in some style, in 2014 we had 365 unique players on the UK Tour, in 2016 it was 495. Our growth as a sport is not only with respect to the number of players, but also the quality, with numerous individual, doubles and team World and European champions (See here).
UK Racketlon Chairman, Ray Jordan had this to say on Keith and his time organising UK Racketlon. "For Keith, it all began on a Eurostar back from King of Rackets in Belgium in 2005, when Stuart Foster "handed over" the responsibility of English Racketlon as it was then. Keith took it and transformed it into what UK Racketlon is today, more than once dipping into his own pocket to cover costs. On behalf of the UK Racketlon community, I just want to say that all of Keith's work is much appreciated and hopefully he'll carry on having an influential role within UK Racketlon in the years to come."
UK Racketlon will always be indebted to Keith Lesser, and he isn’t totally leaving us, he is (rumours abound) leaving organising to focus his efforts on the O40s World Title in 2021, and will continue to enter events around the UK, so while it is thank you, it is not goodbye. However, it is only fair to leave the last word to the man himself, asked about Racketlon, Keith had this to say: “I can't explain the massive passion I've had for Racketlon but there is just something brilliant about it.”
We couldn’t agree more, thank you Keith.