As part of my work, I have the privilege of being the National coach for Visually Impaired and Blind Tennis. As such, I travel the UK delivering coach workshops to up-skill the knowledge of tennis coaches within this area, and work with players in enhancing their playing level.
Over the past 2 weeks, I have travelled to Islington and Middlesbrough to deliver Tennis Camps for B1 Players (B1 players are categorised as totally blind, allowed up to 3 bounces using a sound ball, and will play wearing eye shades in competition). It has been a great opportunity to work with motivated players who have found the love of the game, whom have been an integral part of developing the standard of the sport and I have been able to create learning environments which have challenged their play and stretched their comfort zone.
On reflection, all of this could not have been done, without the support of enthusiastic volunteers, who have given their time to assist in setting up courts and providing assistance with the players. According to the Oxford Dictionary a volunteer is defined as “a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.”
However, the volunteers who have assisted me, have been so much more. They have created the trust when working with their player, to allow me to stretch the boundaries, and apply knowledge from watching players move and play on the court. They’ve supported my approach to coaching B1 players, allowing me to introduce different concepts and movement patterns, which many of the players have never experience before, but have tried due to a wiliness to learn, but also due to the safe environment created by trust and friendship.
The 10 volunteers who gave up their Saturday evening in Middlesbrough and the 8 volunteers who spent a Monday in February on the tennis court – I thank you, as without your support, I would not have the flexibility to work with as many B1 players as we have and the players certainly wouldn’t of had as many opportunities on the tennis court.
I am very lucky, that my love of the game of tennis, has led into creating great friendships both on and off the court, with players, coaches, officials, colleagues from organisations and national governing bodies, but also with so many volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and professions, who have given their time to allow others to also find the love of the game.
The B1 Camp comprised of:
Physical warm ups – guided and dependant; Tracking warm ups – using a variety of equipment and linked to the game; Forehand & Backhand – simplifying technique & movement; Serving Direction; Returning work; Conditioned Game Play – Singles and Doubles.
Photos provided by Maurice Whelan (Middlesbrough), Rosie Pybus (Middlesbrough) and Mark Bullock (Islington)