The British Tennis Awards are in place to hail the unsung heroes of our sport. As part of these awards, Desford Lawn Tennis Club has been named Disability Programme of the Year.
Disability tennis is thriving in Great Britain, led by clubs like Desford Lawn Tennis Club. The club exemplifies how having a welcoming approach and providing accessible opportunities for people with a disability to play, volunteer or work in tennis, can help to open up the sport.
As part of the growing network of venues providing disability tennis opportunities that are supported by the Tennis Foundation, the club really is a fantastic example of how tennis can be a sport that is inclusive and accessible to all.
Desford offers an extensive range of sessions for all ages, abilities and backgrounds due to strong connections with local businesses and members volunteering to support the sessions. These volunteers epitomise dedication and commitment, ensuring all players have positive experiences at the club. This inclusive approach has led to a significant increase in new members across all sessions within the last 12 months.
Specific sessions include a group for older players with audio and visual impairment and new hips and knees, a group for those with learning disabilities, tournaments for players on the autism spectrum from local schools, and a group for players and their families who are affected by cancer. One of the club’s coaches, who has special needs himself, attends all of these sessions to help encourage all players to have fun on court.
Sue Houghton, Chair of Sport in Desford said: “We are thrilled to win this award as it reflects our commitment to grassroots disability tennis, and shows what a relatively small tennis club with limited facilities can achieve with the right ethos, and talented and enthusiastic coaches.”
On top of this, once players feel ready for a spot of competition, the club has run several fun tournaments, with medals presented by the Chief Executive of the Borough Council and the Chair of the Local Sport and Health Alliance.
Desford goes the extra mile to offer the best support to its players; many volunteers have attended sessions with Macmillan Cancer Support, so they can gain the best understanding of how to help participants on and off the court, and they’ve also engaged with Age UK and local doctors surgeries to promote the activities.
Matthew Elkington, Disability Development Manager (North & Midlands) at the Tennis Foundation said: “Desford is leading the way through their work with disabled audiences, as well as those with long-term health issues by having a particularly strong programme with Macmillan. Desford is striving to change the culture of tennis and they thoroughly deserve to be recognised with this award.”
— Tennis Foundation (@TennisFndation) May 21, 2018