Disability tennis programme attracts record numbers

Disability tennis programme attracts record numbers

New figures show record numbers of disabled people have taken part in activity supported by the Tennis Foundation this year, making it one of the biggest disability-specific sports development programmes in the country.

This year saw a total of 12,689 disabled people playing tennis on a monthly basis across the venues in the programme, a 66% increase on 2017 and a four-fold increase since the programme’s launch in 2013. Over 500 venues across the country have now been recruited to be part of the programme and offer disability tennis sessions to their local community.

Activity delivered under the programme enables people with a disability or long-term health condition to pick up a racket and play in dedicated sessions.

Almost 60% of monthly participants are players with a learning disability, with the remainder including wheelchair tennis players, blind or visually impaired players and deaf or hearing impaired players. In addition, a specific focus this year was put on driving tennis sessions for people with a mental health problem with these now accounting for 9% of monthly participants in the programme.

Alongside targeted activity at both a national and regional level to drive participation and recruit venues to deliver sessions, the increasing profile of disability tennis through the likes of Wimbledon wheelchair tennis champions Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett has also helped to make more people aware of tennis as a sport for disabled people.

‘Tennis really is an adaptable sport that can be for anyone’

Jill Osleger, National Disability Development Manager for the Tennis Foundation, said:

“We are absolutely delighted with the impact our work in driving disability tennis is having. To have turned what we launched in 2013 into one of the biggest disability-specific sports development programmes in the country is a phenomenal achievement.

“We have a partnership approach to our work that encompasses many organisations and individuals, without whom we would not have had the success we have. I’d like to thank everyone who has played a role in helping engage so many disabled people in tennis.

“Tennis really is an adaptable sport that can be for anyone, and there are proven benefits for a person’s physical and mental health, social life and personal development. We’d encourage anyone to get along to a session, pick up a racket and give it a go!”

The Tennis Foundation’s programme of activity is supported by funding from Sport England, and the outstanding success to date means participation levels are already two years ahead of the Tennis Foundation’s own strategic target.

This latest growth in participation figures has also been reflected in a huge uplift in the number of people entering the Tennis Foundation’s range of disability competitions this year, a key factor in helping to ensure people continue playing and develop their involvement in the sport.

National VI Tennis Championships

Mike Diaper, Director of Community Sport at Sport England, said:

“We know that disabled people are less active than non-disabled people, this is not good enough and is something we are addressing through our ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy. It is great to see that our investment into the Tennis Foundation is having such a positive impact on increasing the number of active disabled people.”

Supporting disability-specific activity is just one strand of the Tennis Foundation’s work to make the health and social benefits of the sport open to disabled people, sitting alongside activity to make tennis more inclusive, supporting venues and coaches to open their doors and make tennis welcoming to disabled people whether they want to play, volunteer or coach.

The Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity, announced earlier this month that it will be integrating its activities and staff into the Lawn Tennis Association in a move that will open up tennis and develop inclusion across the sport.

Looking ahead to the future, Osleger said: “These figures demonstrate the fantastic foundations that have been put in place to open up tennis to disabled people, which as part of the LTA can now be taken forward with even greater scale. We are looking forward to continuing the momentum and ensuring Great Britain retains its reputation as one of the leading nations in the world for disability tennis.”

Sport England’s Diaper added: “I am excited to see the LTA continue the work that the Tennis Foundation has started and seeing more disabled people get active through tennis.”

To learn more about the work the Tennis Foundation has done to make tennis a sport that is inclusive and accessible for disabled people and to read our ‘Open Court’ Disability strategy, click here.