Coaching people with dementia

July 11, 2022

By Mark Bullock, Disability Tennis Co-ordinator for Middlesex Tennis.

Having worked in various tennis roles nationally and internationally since 1991, I believe tennis is an inclusive sport for everyone to enjoy. Over the last couple of years, I have been coaching people living with dementia and have been training other coaches to do so too.

At the start of lockdown, I started coaching online. Initially, I was coaching wheelchair tennis and then learning disability tennis and blind tennis.  

I got involved with coaching people with dementia through a link I had with Tennis Ireland. We discussed delivering tennis for a group of people living with dementia who had previously visited a tennis centre.  

disability tennis coach
disability tennis coach

Adapting the tennis sessions

I adapted the sessions by making sure the group used smaller, lightweight racquets and we used balloons instead of balls to slow the game down and provide safety in a care home setting.  

Most of the exercises were seated and we ran a variety of skills-based activities. We used armchairs as targets to work on people’s target skills and played singles and doubles over a mini tennis net. 

The highlights of this experience were seeing everyone developing their skills, and most importantly, having fun.

Tennis is a sport that anyone can play – including people living with dementia.

You can take part at a tennis venue, at your local park or even in a care home playing seated mini tennis. You can open up the sport so it’s suitable for everyone.  Every time I deliver a session, I learn more about dementia. The sessions provide physical and mental health benefits and have reinforced my belief that tennis is for everyone.  

Tennis-a-thon 2022

Sign up to the Dementia UK Tennis-a-thon and challenge yourself to play tennis for as long as you can on 17th July

Find out more

How we can support you

Looking for information, advice and support with any aspect of dementia? Find out about our services and how we can support you

Find out more

Taking on the Tennis-a-thon for my auntie

Sarah and her son Alfie share why taking on a Tennis-a-thon was important to them

Read more