Friday morning saw the dining room converted into an indoor tennis court training area. Activators from various Mencap sites across the UK had been invited to our second LUSU Inclusive Activators training session working in partnership with the LTA Open Court Disability Tennis programme. We spent a great couple of hours sharing ideas to bring tennis into the Mencap community. Everyone was full of energy, and joined in using various tennis equipment and everyday items from around the home.
We were so pleased to receive the case study from our first training session - please read below how Bexley Mencap took the lessons learnt in the LUSU Activators training into online delivery during lockdown 3.
Bexley Mencap Case Study - Provided by Matthew Maguire (Mencap)
At the end of 2019, Mencap launched a national partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). The partnership involved funding for Network Partners to apply for equipment, coaching and training. 15 Network Partners from across the country were successful in their application to be a part of this programme, which also develops local connections between Network Partners and their local Open Court Tennis Club, a grassroots tennis venue providing disability specific tennis sessions
For reasons we are all aware, the bulk of this delivery has been unable to launch, though we have been fortunate enough to be able to distribute equipment bags at the start of October, before we were all confined to our houses once more. How then, to use this equipment to engage participants in tennis sessions without access to courts or nets?? Step forward Bexley Mencap and Zoom Tennis!
As part of the National Tennis Partnership, Bexley Mencap were one of the Network Partners who attended a Zoom Tennis training course held in partnership with the LTA and LUSU Sport, a tennis organisation with years of experience of delivering adapted sessions for disabled people.
5 members of Bexley Mencap, as-well as Income & Development Officer Nick Marsden, attended the training, which taught them about the equipment in the bag and provided examples of fun tennis drills that can be done in a small space, with limited equipment. One of the course tutors, Louise explains “Tennis is an ideal sport to be adapted to take place in small spaces, such as at home. It is fun, fully inclusive and we can even get creative using milk bottles, cereal boxes and other items found around the house. Developing skills in small progressions - there’s something for everyone!”
Nick agrees, “We learned to play a range of games with soft balls, a large felt ball, a happy hitting hand and a special balancing mat; not to mention scrunching up coloured scarves and throwing them in the air and then catching them again.. don’t worry, nothing was smashed!”
Since attending this course, Bexley Mencap have been inspired to launch weekly Zoom Tennis sessions, which have gone from strength to strength, with 12 members regularly attending the online sessions. Liam, who attended the training with LUSU says
“I like Zoom Tennis because everyone can join in. It’s fun and easy. There’s lots of different balls and exercises to do. The time goes really quickly.’
Despite never having played tennis outdoors, Liam has learned about all the shots, (his favourite is a backhand slice) and he can’t wait to get to a court once lockdown is over.
Nick Marsden agrees, ‘Zoom Tennis has been a big hit. There’s so much you can do with it for all abilities! It’s simple to set up and play and there are loads of different actions and exercises for everyone to try. I can see that the hand/eye co-ordination of members is improving each week. That’s because they tell me they practice ready for next time. They love being in the ‘spotlight’ on Zoom and being pinned! We stop and clap when a member wants to show off their skills to everyone. Two of the carers have joined in as well so now we have balls going back and forth across the length of the living room”.
With interesting, challenging, and fun activities that can be delivered with a range of equipment, Zoom Tennis can be a complete hit with the group – and anyone can take part and learn new skills. The group at Bexley Mencap have certainly showed this to be true and can’t wait to get on a court this Summer to show these new skills off.