TENNIS: Grantham Tennis Club’s disability programme acknowledged as number one at Wimbledon

Grantham Tennis Club's head of disability tennis Richard Edgley and coach Neil Rossiter collecting the award from British number one quad wheelchair tennis player and three time Paralympic medallist Andy Lapthorne.
Grantham Tennis Club's head of disability tennis Richard Edgley and coach Neil Rossiter collecting the award from British number one quad wheelchair tennis player and three time Paralympic medallist Andy Lapthorne.

Grantham Tennis Club received the National Disability Programme of the Year award at a ceremony held at Wimbledon earlier this month.

The British Tennis Awards, with a welcome from Andrew Castle and Lawn Tennis Association president Martin Corrie, celebrated the success of the winners and finalists who made a great difference to British tennis in 2016.

Grantham Tennis Club's learning disability class with Feeling Good's lead coach James Prior and the award.

Grantham Tennis Club's learning disability class with Feeling Good's lead coach James Prior and the award.

Grantham club chairman Lianne Tapson MBE, head of disability tennis Richard Edgley and wheelchair tennis player and coach Neil Rossiter travelled to the All England Lawn Tennis Club to be formally acknowledged for the part they, and other club coaches and members, played in providing not just the opportunity for tennis players with a disability to play in Grantham, but for them to flourish.

They have done so through welcoming people on to the court, putting a racket in their hand and working out how to give them the best tennis experience possible.

Asked why he thinks the club received the award, Richard Edgley said: “Deep down, we don’t believe that disability tennis actually exists. It’s all just tennis.

“As a club we embrace players who are physically, intellectually, emotionally different. Whether this is wheelchair players participating in mainstream activities, club members cheering players with a learning disability when they beat the coach, or a small army of volunteers mentoring our new groups aimed at people with mental health issues.”

The number of players attending the weekly sessions doubled between September 2015 and September 2016 – a true testament to the huge efforts of those involved. A driving force behind the club’s £3.2 million redevelopment in 2014, club manager Sarah Patton continues to smash down barriers that may prevent people from playing tennis, ensuring that the programme has the courts and resources it needs during peak times.

Joanna Farquharson, deputy executive director of Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity, said that through the foundation’s support for their network of venues, participation in tennis among disabled people is at record levels: “Nowhere is that more evident than at Grantham Tennis Club. We are delighted to see the outstanding work at Grantham being recognised with this thoroughly deserved award – huge congratulations to all involved.”

Wheelchair tennis has thrived. This has resulted in two players gaining coaching qualifications and becoming part of the coaching team.

The Great Taste Cafe, the club’s on site cafe, offers work experience to people with a learning disability with a bonus of free tennis sessions.

A highlight of the programme so far was last year’s visit to the club of Tim Henman and Andrew Castle. Henman gave wheelchair tennis his best effort, with an entertaining commentary provided by Castle.

Behind the success and enjoyment of these players are the coaches, tennis leaders and volunteers. It was one of these volunteers, Dale Wright, who ensured that the mental health initiative Feeling Good, which aims to promote good mental health, was up and running.

He obtained funding and liaised with NHS mental health professionals and as a result of this, high numbers of players have participated. James Prior, Feeling Good’s lead coach, runs the group with humour, compassion and no small amount of skill.

+ If any of the above has prompted you to start playing tennis for the first time or to pick up a racket once again, the disability tennis sessions take place at the following times: wheelchair tennis – Friday 1pm to 2pm and Saturday 1pm to 2.30pm, learning disability tennis – Thursday 4.30pm to 5.30pm, 5.30pm to 6.30pm and Saturday 2.30pm to 3.30 pm, Feeling Good – Wednesday 10am to 12pm.

Grantham Tennis Club’s Facebook and Twitter pages are regularly updated with information regarding coaching, tournaments, holiday camps, and both tennis and social events – www.facebook.com/granthamtennisclub, @GTCManager

The club would love to work with new individuals and groups within the disability sector who are interested in adding to and promoting the disability programme as it continues to look at new ways to grow. Is this you? If yes, call 01476 591391or send an e-mail to info@granthamtennisclub.co.uk