Sport25th July 2015

Deaf Friendly Tennis Event Seeks to Attract new Deaf talent

Hosting a fun and informative day, deaf youngsters will have left Nottingham inspired by the opportunities that exist within Deaf tennis

by Sarah Lawrence

Hosting the first ever World Deaf Ttennis Championships at the impressive Nottingham Tennis Centre, the organisers could have been forgiven for doing nothing more than making sure the event went off without a problem. However, showing a true commitment to Deaf Sport, a community event was built into their arrangements, opening up the courts and the best of the British players to any Deaf youngsters who wanted to come along to give tennis a try on the Saturday of the week long competition.

Despite a long and successful Deaf sporting history, many of today's Deaf youngsters struggle to find a pathway into sport. Too many PE teachers have little knowledge or understanding about the sporting opportunities that exist for Deaf children or how to communicate with them effectively to be able to coach them. Teachers of the Deaf often shy away from connecting deaf youngsters with the Deaf community or Deaf Sport or don't know enough to properly advise. Sadly, and despite the best efforts of some Deaf focused organisations, many community sports have the same gaps, and this often sees Deaf children and their parents turning their back on a sporting opportunity simply because a Deaf child did not fit in.

Against this backdrop, it was wonderful to see The Tennis Foundation and their partner organisations open up the Nottingham Tennis Centre to Deaf children, with a warm and genuine invite to come along and give tennis a go. Providing expert coaching, role models and a fun environment, this was a real chance for children to learn how much tennis can be, but also for parents of deaf children to learn a little more about what is possible.

With Esah Hayat, at the tender age of 13, claiming the title of Junior World Deaf Tennis Champion on the same day, the families who turned up would have seen what hard work and dedication can lead to.

Built into the week long event, the Come and Try session was advertised widely through deaf friendly media channels, Deaf clubs, Tennis Clubs and through social media. Age appropriate sessions were planned with special eqipment organised for toddlers to make sure they were able to have fun at the same time as being introduced to tennis. Attracting both girls and boys, parents watched on with broad smiles as the coaches put their children through their paces, with even the youngest kids learning to hit a ball.

Whilst this was an introduction to some of the children who turned up, others arrived with their own racket, keen to have access to the coaching that was on offer having already taken up the sport. Siblings and family members were also encouraged to take part, tennis being one of those few sports where the old and the new in a family can take to the court at the same time and enjoy playing together.

Deaf labels were of no consequence to the people involved, the coaching relying far more on visual instruction that voice commands, maintenance of good eye contact and lots of encouragement. The atmosphere was just lovely, and I hope that at least some of the children who came along will want to play tennis in the future.

Like the professional arrangements around the main competition, I was impressed by the efforts made to open up the game to Deaf youngsters. For those that attended, it was a great advert for Deaf Tennis. The problem, is that too few parents of Deaf children have any direct lines of communication to Deaf sport, the Deaf community or Deaf life, meaning that the majority of them, will not have had a clue that the event was being held or that Deaf Tennis and other Deaf Sport exists. It woud be good to see information like this cascaded by BATOD and Local Authorities to the professionals who support deaf youngsters and their parents, thereby ensuring that the opportunities are more widely known.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Sport

25th July 2015