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