Mark Bullock is an inclusive sports development advisor and coach. During the Covid-19 lockdown, he has been supporting and developing news ways of operating for providers, especially online. Now, following tennis’ early return to action – compared to other sports – he is calling out to providers to create more inclusive opportunities for new and existing players.
Tennis has been in the fortunate position to be one of the few sports people could play and now with the announcement that indoor courts can open opportunities will further expand. The LTA has announced a return-to-play campaign #PlayYourWay and have been very supportive of their coaching workforce in this unprecedented time. Tennis courts are busy and coaches working from venues that are open are in demand.
We must ensure that the return to play is as inclusive as possible and that all tennis players are included in the programming that is planned. Much disability and inclusive tennis is played in indoor venues because of the accessibility but these venues have been closed for longer than outdoor venues. This has resulted in some players seeking to play at alternative venues and encouraging those venues to make reasonable adjustments. The delivery of online sessions has proved popular during lockdown and I believe will continue to have a place for people who are shielding or are less confident to go out. Online sessions are also a great way to introduce people to the sport and remove some barriers including transport time and cost.
There is a great opportunity for tennis to expand its inclusive opportunities at this time and for venues to welcome new and existing players to play local to their homes rather than travelling long distances on public transport to attend specialist sessions. Current guidance around guiding for blind and partially sighted people may impact on Tube travel in London and other forms of public transport so opportunities for visually-impaired players may have to be done in a different way. As indoor venues re-open any reconfiguration of reception areas etc needs to ensure that the requirements of disabled customers are met. Staff will need to be aware that they must inform visually-impaired players of where hand gel is available and any barriers used to maintain social distance will need to be wide enough for a tennis wheelchair to pass.
In these unprecedented times I like to see the opportunities and tennis is well-placed to have an inclusive return and to potentially attract new players. Services may have to be provided differently to before and if the principles of coaching disabled people are applied to all aspects of the customer experience the sport will continue to offer and improve its inclusive offer.
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Pic credit: AXSChat