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I had the pleasure in meeting Clive during a Veterans week at the Battle Back Centre, Lilleshall. With a larger than life personality, a truly proud Welsh man who had formally served as Welsh Guards.

It became very apparent within minutes of meeting this larger than life character that the week was going to be a fun one, full of discussions about music and films of the 80’s, bad jokes shared and that there was more to Clive than he first let on!

What I didn’t realise was how much I would learn from Clive during this week and to gain a deeper Understanding of how control, consistency, breathing technique, repetition and focusing on detail (process) would have such an effect on the outcome (performance).

Clive was blinded in 2000 and in 2001 took up archery. Having become British Blind Sport Indoor and Outdoor National Champion, he had taken a break from the sport, but that was all to change.

The veterans programme at the Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall uses activities to reinforce well-being. The week started with Clive demonstrating that inclusivity is actually that, as he shot a basket in the wheelchair basketball to take his team into the lead. Other activities included climbing, cycling, walking, seated volleyball, tennis and archery.

What became very evident very quickly was that archery was his passion. Clive set up his station which included a wooden framed foot plate, a sensory sight which was held at the correct height to touch his left hand, that in turn allowed Clive to draw the bow at the right height to aim the arrows at the target. Once set up shooting began and arrows started to group in the target with feedback to Clive coming from myself. Soon arrows were being collected from the boss and then fine tuning commenced. This attention to detail; the minor adjustments to the foot panel, sensory sight, body position, all completed in a methodical order provided marginal gains with the arrow placement.

So what did I learn then and have learnt since watching Clive shoot, and how has that impacted on my coaching:

• Repetition with feedback (IF NEEDED) is vital for fixing key habits within closed skill routines

• Feedback has its importance but only when timely and is communicated in a way that the athlete can relate to

• Athletes need to become autonomous and self-reliant on making the minor adjustments that they can control, which In turn will make an impact on performance outcome. A methodical and systematic routine is critical for the athlete to make these minor adjustments

• Communication is key from coach to athlete, but being able to convey in a way the athlete understands

• In a closed skill, the power of relaxed controlled breathing has a major effect on the body and mindset, and this relaxed state is vital to the outcome of the arrow

• The ability to focus and remove attention from distracting factors which may influence the balanced state and ability to repeat the pre-shot routine

• A growth mindset is required to assist the hours required for repetition and commitment

The above in turn has benefitted my feedback to B1 players on the tennis court. Tennis (in its various forms) is an open skilled sport, however closed skills within, such as the serve can learn a lot from archery.

My journey as a coach continues and it is this journey which continues to excite and make me grow.

For more information

As the GB coach for the Blind & Visually Impaired GB Tennis Team, attending the III World Championships in Spain, I have been asked what do you do…..

Benidorm was the venue, but there was going to be no chance for Team GB to sit in the sun and find the beach……there was work to be done on court, and the players worked their magic!

The week comprised of

Saturday 8th June – Players meet at the National Tennis Centre, and a chance to get on court for 3 hours next to the Junior Deaf Camp. An opportunity for myself to catch up with National Deaf Manager/Coach, Catherine Fletcher (a former player/student at Leeds Metropolitan University, who has achieved at the highest level – Gold at Deaflympics). Onto a meal and Q&A session from the players.

Sunday 9th June – Early rise, taxi to Gatwick and off we go! Arrive at Alicante airport, transfer and then straight into the opening ceremony and presentation on IBTA (International Blind Tennis Association). Evening meal, hotel orientation and bed!

Monday 10th June –

AM – Breakfast and jump onto early bus to the outdoor tennis courts at IQL Tennis Academy. GB had practiced scheduled from 9:30 – 11:30, and with 8 players in a variety of classifications, plus supporting a player who trained in GB but was representing Pakistan, it was a full morning. As a coach working with players in a variety of classifications, with different number of bounces allowed, and a group of players with excitement/nerves for the week ahead, the plan of the session was to ensure all players settled, feet were moving on court, hitting paths lengthened, players motivated and points played. It was unusual for many players playing on outdoor courts, working against the sun and trying the different coloured sound balls.

PM – Players rested by the pool. Coach (Lou) and Manager (Claire) – no such rest! After a very quick walk to see the beach, we were in meetings about the tournament from 3pm. Dinner at 7.30pm, Team Meeting 9pm to outline the schedule for the following day and answer any questions/worries from players.

Tuesday 11th June –

AM – Early rise. I had schedule a pre-breakfast practice. So 6.30am, players met and off we went to the outdoor tennis courts, to start practice at 7am. As the only nation that had planned this, we had the luxury of 6 courts available to us, the stillness and coolness of the morning (no breeze/sun rising but no heat), no other sounds except the laughter to the GB players, the sound of racket strings striking the sound ball and the bounce of the ball on the court. A great 2 hour session, players worked hard and it was evident that pre tournament nerves had gone. Team GB walked out of the IQL Tennis Academy towards the hotel for breakfast, as a confident and cohesive team – a great memory. Back at the hotel, time for breakfast and then to jump on the transport to sight classification. As a fairly new sport, which is working towards Paralympic status, it is important that all players competing in the tournament are sight classified at the event. This is the least enjoyable experience for players and as a coach, the role is to support, to listen, assist in completing numerous forms and ensure players are ok following the classification procedure (which is very tiring for players). Team GB’s classifications were confirmed and players were now registered for the tournament. Classification for the tournament, took 2 days to complete for all the players attending.

PM – Players had a rest afternoon, but again Louise and Claire had no time for time off. Draws for the tournament were completed post classification and the schedule of play announced. IBTA meetings continued into the early evening. Dinner, Team meeting at 9pm with schedule announced for the following day.

Wednesday 12th June –

Early breakfast, onto the transfer bus and then Team GB jumped onto the practice courts at the competition venue. Their first opportunity to hit in the venue, caused many questions and concerns. The coaches role is to settle players, remind players they can only control the controllable, allow questions and concerns and create a GB camp in the venue. B1 players could get onto their match courts and opportunity to orientate to their environment. Matches started at 10am, and players were reminded of the schedule. 8 courts were in play, Claire was umpiring throughout the day, with myself supporting the players on and off the court. With 9 players to support, watch, video it was a very full day which finished at 7pm. Back on the bus, straight to dinner and then team meeting at 9pm, to discuss the days play, the following days logistics/schedule and ensure all players ok. Back to hotel room to transfer all video footage and then to bed!

Thursday 13th June –

Repeat of Wednesday, players aiming to get out of the round robin stages and into the quarter final stages. A great show of tennis was displayed by the players and all 9 players reached the quarter finals. Some great friendships were being forged with the players/coaches in the other nations and some great learning on and off the court for players and coaches alike! Late transfer to hotel, dinner, team meeting, video transfer and bed.

Friday 14th June –

Repeat of Thursday but Quarter Finals and Semi Finals for the players. Great tennis was displayed on the court, and players listened to strategy and tactics given by myself prior to them going onto court. Late into Friday evening, there were just 2 players, an umpire, 2 supporting coaches and the tournament organiser left in the building, as Team GB competed against France in the B3 Women’s 3/4 play off. A long,hard fought match, saw GB take Bronze – a fantastic result. Back at the hotel, it was dinner, team meeting, transfer of videos and bed.

Saturday 15th June – FINALS DAY

Team GB had a busy day ahead. With finalists in the B1 Women, B2 Men & Women, B4 Men & Women, the players knew what was needed. A professional and competitive attitude was observed from all the players, and the team supported their team mates from the side of the court. The players gave everything on court, and left the court with heads held high and the knowledge they had played a very competitive match. As a coach, I left the court absolutely shattered, having played every point that all the players had played!! WOW what a day and what an achievement by team GB. After the last ball had been hit by a GB player, there was now the opportunity for the team to celebrate their week, let their hair down and have a celebratory drink. Presentations and photos were completed and then back to the hotel for dinner, team debrief and Players player of the week awarded and then the celebrations began!

Sunday 16th June –

A very early start, players packed their trophies and the journey home commenced.

So back in the UK – full of reflections and memories from the tournament. Player videos are being edited, coaches contacted, player reviews and the next performance camp being planned. Work doesn’t stop, learnings taken from the week are now being implemented into the next phase and players step back onto the training court, proud of their individual and team performance, but knowing the hard work starts now for the next tournament…….

??Rachel Morgan – London (B1 Ladies) – Gold ??Amanda Large – Manchester (B2 Ladies) – Gold ??Rosie Pybus – Middlesbrough (B4 Ladies) – Gold ??James Currie – Manchester (B2 Men) – Silver ??Neil Fradgley – Isle of Wight (B4 Men) – Silver ??Paul Ryb – London (B3 Men) – Bronze ??Sarah Fortescue – Milton Keynes (B3 Ladies) – Bronze ??Christopher Blake – London (B3 Men) – Quarter-Finalist Naqi Rizvi (Pakistan) – London (B1 Mens) – Bronze

Thank you to the LTA, Claire McCulloch (GB Manager), all the organisers in Spain, Sam and all the players – a great week to be involved in and to make new friends. For the official news, please see the link from the LTA website 

https://www.lta.org.uk/about-us/tennis-news/news-and-opinion/general-news/2019/june/great-britain-strike-gold-at-2019-international-blind-tennis-tournament/

12 years ago, I was invited to coach multi activities on the CADS holiday club (Children’s Abled Disabled Sports) at Seashell Trust and that was the start of such a wonderful relationship with the staff and pupils there.

I soon realized that the equipment that was available was just not working well enough for children / students with a disability. I then set about creating my own equipment that allowed those children with complex needs to be able to participate within the lessons.

I then discovered that the equipment that I had invented was very much needed in the schools / clubs that I worked in as more and more children with additional needs were coming into mainstream schools and the standard issue school equipment was just not allowing them to participate within their lessons.

As the equipment was being used within the lessons, more & more teachers were then asking for lesson plan advice and that’s when I started talks with my long-term friend and business partner Louise Assioun – LUSU Sports was then formed. Her professional expertise & extensive knowledge of disability teacher training was in valuable in this field.

The journey began and it still continues to be written……

Susan Morrison – The Su of LUSU!!

It’s International Happiness Day today and what a lovely sunny spring like day it has been. This day, first celebrated by the United Nations in 2012, gives us an excuse to smile and make others happy.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you” – Princess Diana

Today I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Sue, visiting Hollybank Trust in Mirfield, which supports and educates children and adults within their special school and residential homes. As we walked in, we were met with smiles and hellos from everyone we met, and were made to feel so welcome. Such care had been made to make the environment a home from home, with great and innovative facilities. The staff we met, spoke with so much passion about the programmes they have to enhance the wellbeing of those who use the school and residential homes. We left with smiles on our faces, the warmth of the sun on our backs and a reminder of how lucky we are meeting and working with great individuals. As the day comes to a close, let’s celebrate gratitude and help others find a bit of happiness every day.

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)

We are pleased to share the blog written by Mark Bullock for Middlesex Tennis, which can be found at here

Blind (B1) Tennis Camp held at Islington February 27, 2019

Six players took part in the Metro Blind Sports B1 Tennis Camp at Islington Tennis Centre on Monday 25th February. The National Visually Impaired Tennis Coach Louise Assioun led the camp assisted by Middlesex Tennis Disabilities Coordinator Mark Bullock. B1 players are blind and play on a smaller court with a lower net and tactile lines.

Players took part in warm up activity, movement exercises, drills, games, tactical scenarios and match play. Volunteers from Highgate Tennis Club who also support the regular B1 sessions at the same venue supported the camp.

Louise commented, ‘It was great to be invited to Islington to deliver the B1 Tennis Camp on Monday. A fantastic day of tennis due to the players embracing the variety of warm ups, tracking progressions and tennis drills on court with a northern twist! The players demonstrated their love of the game and hope they take some of the tips into their regular sessions. A massive thank you to the exceptional volunteers from Metro, who assisted and were fundamental to the success of the day. I am looking forward to watching the players continue to develop their tennis.’

Masuma Ali said ‘I really enjoyed the B1 camp and it provided me with new techniques to think about when playing tennis. Louise has an easy ability to view play from a B1 perspective, which positively comes across in her coaching. In addition, Louise is keen to hear what players have to say and gain further knowledge.’ For more information on visually impaired tennis go to: 

https://www.tennisfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/A-Guide-to-Visually-Impaired-Tennis.pdf

LUSU had a fabulous LUSU training day at Seashell Trust in Cheshire! After setting up the equipment and welcoming the members of staff from all departments we outlined what LUSU is all about and worked through our LUSUKIT and Activity Cards.We had some great fun showing how the LUSU equipment can make your lessons fully Inclusive. We met some great people who were all full of energy and full of enthusiasm about our LUSUKIT!

“Lou and Sue have a wide range of knowledge and expertise on inclusive physical activity. The training was fun and I have never laughed so much on a course. Sue and Lou tailor the training to you and the participants that you work with. I came away with lots of new ideas and new motivation for sessions that I deliver for adults and children with additional needs” (Heather Potter, Health and Fitness Development Officer)

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