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Coaching tennis for people with dementia

Mark, Disability Tennis Co-ordinator for Middlesex Tennis shares why he started coaching sessions for people living with dementia

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.  

Mark, at home.

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.

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.