Walsall College broadening horizons with outstanding disability tennis provision

Walsall College broadening horizons with outstanding disability tennis provision

Walsall College are leading the way when it comes to tennis delivery, particularly for disabled students, but that doesn’t mean their sports development co-ordinator Mark Howard (left in picture) is content just yet.

In fact, quite the opposite. He has big plans for the new academic year, with a view of rolling out their tennis provision to support student’s families and the wider community.

Mark is aiming to build on their partnership with Streetly Tennis Club, who have helped offer tennis to the 3,700 students in attendance Walsall College, including disability sessions.

Last year, 134 disabled students experienced six weeks or more of tennis activity in their curriculum. Mark’s plan is to build upon that with support for the player’s whole family.

“The idea behind the session is that anyone from the family can come and play, but equally if the students and siblings want to play but Mum and Dad want to sit and chat with like-minded people, they can do that too,” Mark explained.

“It’s going to be flexible in that you don’t have to play tennis, that’s just on offer at the club. It provides an opportunity for the parents to talk to people in similar situations and it helps create a support network.

“They’ll have things in common that we don’t see. It’s open to the community too, if there is someone in close proximity to the club who is a student of another college or institution, or a member of the public with a disability, you can come to the session as well.”

“We tried launching it earlier this year but getting a suitable slot at the tennis club was difficult because it was their busiest time of the year. We’ll launch it again in September with the view of it being an evening session.”

The college’s partnership with the Tennis Foundation dates back to 2014, and for the past couple of years they have based their tennis curriculum at Streetly Tennis Club, where they work with the club’s head coach Neil Goldsby.

Having worked closely with the Tennis Foundation from the beginning of the partnership, Mark knows just how crucial a role both they and Streetly Tennis Club play in their impressive tennis delivery.

“Our partnership with the Tennis Foundation has developed absolutely fabulously over the years,” Mark exclaimed.

“We currently have funding for another year but we’re already looking beyond that. For September 2019, we want to develop an academy with the Tennis Foundation and Streetly whereby students from both mainstream and disability tennis come together to form an academic group as well as a playing group.”

“We’re happy with participation levels at the moment, and the main focus now is ensuring that when students move on from college they continue playing. Our plans for the evening session and moving forward with the academy are crucial to that.

“At the moment, we are just covering participation, and when we are comfortable with retention that’s when we will say we’re covering everything. If we get to the end of the year and we’ve got those two things right, that phase of the project will have been successful.”