Disabled youngsters from across South London enjoyed a ‘get into tennis’ programme in spring and summer 2014 with help from a £750 Small Grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
The project, ran by the South London Special League, provided a gateway into the sport for over 50 disabled young people. For ten years the organisation has offered opportunities for young people with disabilities to play sport, namely football and cricket before introducing the tennis programme.
SLSL Project Manager Sharon Brokenshire said, “There is little provision in our community to offer opportunities to play tennis to disabled and disadvantages young people. We are determined to mirror the success of our football project that has empowered thousands of young people.
At SLSL we celebrate success be it a high level of performance or young people achieving beyond expectations. We also celebrate positive attitude that may be reflected in winning, or through fair play and respect.”
The tennis project was aimed at young people aged over 14 who, after leaving school at 16 or 18, will be off the radar of opportunities that are available for young disabled players. Players from Charlton Park Academy, Shooters Hill Post 16 College and those involved in the SLSL football league attended training sessions at Hornfair Park Tennis Courts, which were provided by Greenwich Leisure Limited.
A competitive element was also added to the project, with a handful of players selected to perform in the London Youth Games over June and July. The project culminated with a large celebration event including competitions and participatory prizes in early July.
One of the key elements of the programme is to provide a legacy for young people to continue playing tennis in the future.
Ms Brokenshire said, “When the project finishes, we will find local exit routes for young people to continue playing at an appropriate levels of ability. This will be achieved with the support of volunteers who will ‘buddy up’ with young people and locate community clubs that have the provision for disabled people to play tennis. Competitive sport is not the private pastime for people who are not disabled; it is a joy we can all experience.”
The patron of the South London Special League is MP Nick Raynsford who won a Jack Petchey Leadership Award last year.
Photo: Paul Sanders
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