Tennis West joins Blind Sports WA to pilot inaugural Blind Tennis Program

In partnership with the Healthway Tennis for Everyone Program, Tennis West have joined forces with Blind Sports WA to bring the game of tennis to the blind low vision community of Western Australia.

With the collaboration of Blind Sports WA, Tennis West, Tennis Australia, and local coaches and clubs, a well-considered pilot session was delivered to five blind low vision participants at Manning Tennis Club at the beginning of October. Hailed a great success by all involved, planning is already underway for Blind Low Vision Tennis Programs at additional clubs including Alexander Park (Menora) and Nollamara.

Blind Sports WA Chairperson Ben Rowe says the organisation’s aim is to increase the opportunity for sport and recreation offerings to the blind low vision community of Western Australia, with a particular focus on youth.

‘It’s a priority of Blind Sports WA to increase the number of sporting and recreation opportunities for the blind low vision community and we’re particularly focussed on making sure there’s plenty of choice for younger kids,’

‘We advocate for health and wellbeing and we know that being involved and active in sport and recreation activities is a big part of that,’

‘Introducing tennis as a viable option has been met with a great amount of collaboration, co-design and troubleshooting with Tennis West, Tennis Australia and a number of dedicated coaches and clubs who are keen to be involved,’ Rowe said.

The game of tennis for blind and low vision participants is usually played on a standard tennis court using modified racquets and balls. The adapted sponge ball makes a noise when it bounces and are usually black or florescent yellow to give maximum contrast against the colour of the court. Depending on the participants blind or low vision classification* the rules of the game may vary. If the player is totally blind then three bounces are permitted, whilst partial sight allows for just two. Just like standard tennis, both singles and doubles are played.

Tennis West Club Inclusion Project Leader Paula Gates says the first step was in bringing the right people together.

Identified for their existing work in the inclusion space, Manning Tennis Club Head Coach, Mike Gill and Ian Ketteringham of Alexander Park and Nollamara TC were engaged as pioneers of the project.

‘When Ben made contact with Tennis West, the first step was in identifying who we needed to get involved for the project to get off the ground,’

‘It was easy to pin point Mike and Ian and their respective clubs of Manning, Alexander Park and Nollamara TC given their existing activity in the inclusion space,’

‘The success of the pilot session was the result of bringing the coaches, clubs and blind and low vision participants together so they could all learn from each other,’

‘Doing so gave great insight as to how the coaches would need to adapt traditional coaching techniques to best suit a person who is blind or has low vision,’

‘Thanks to everyone involved in the pilot session, the group are committed to developing an ongoing Blind Low Vision Tennis Program,’ Gates said.

As a Tennis Australia Coach Member championing inclusion in WA, Ian Ketteringham says that there’s a lot to learn from delivering tennis to people of blind and low vision.

‘It’s always great to offer tennis to new groups who might otherwise be overlooked,’

‘I enjoy the opportunity which comes from connecting with different people and always find that there’s great learning to be had as a coach when you need to adapt your coaching techniques to suit the abilities of the participants,’

‘There’s a lot to consider when you’re working with blind and low vision participants and obviously safety is key to everything, but the one thing we didn’t need to worry about was their determination – they came with plenty of that,’

‘Discussions are on the table to take the pilot session further and I look forward to being a part of that,’ Ketteringham said.

Healthway Director of Health Promotion Julia Knapton said the Tennis for Everyone Program is a wonderful initiative through our partnership with Tennis West.

“The program will help to make tennis more accessible for the blind and low vision community of Western Australia, and provide a fun environment for participants to be active and healthy,” Ms Knapton said.

Tennis West acknowledges the Healthway Tennis for Everyone Program for the support of the Blind Low Vision tennis pilot session held at Manning Tennis Club.

*Classifications

There are 4 classifications/categories of Blind and Low Vision Tennis. Classification

Eligibility criteria

B1

Visual acuity poorer than LogMAR 2.60

B2

Visual acuity ranging from LogMAR 1.50 to 2.60 (inclusive)

B3

Visual acuity ranging from LogMAR 1.0 to 1.40 (inclusive) OR visual fields less than 10 degrees diameter and visual acuity better than 0.5 (B4)

B4

Visual acuity ranging from LogMAR 0.5 to 0.9 (inclusive) OR visual fields less than 40 degrees diameter and visual acuity better than 0.5.

Blind Sports WA operates under Blind Sports Australia as the states governing body for blind and vision-impaired sport in Western Australia.

Healthway funds sport, arts, community activities, health promotion projects and research to inspire Western Australians, especially young people, to live healthier lives. Healthway works with local organisations to fund and create healthy activities and events and promotes messages about good health seen in the community throughout Western Australia. To find out more head to: www.healthway.wa.gov.au/our-organisation 

Further information about Blind Sports WA:

Ben Rowe, Blind Sports WA Chairperson | [email protected]