Read more from 2009 Deaflympic Games mixed doubles gold medallist Cathy Graham after she took part in a Deaf Tennis Festival to try and encourage more children to take up tennis.
I was recently lucky enough to be part of a Deaf Tennis Festival at the National Tennis Centre (NTC) in Roehampton, which had been organised by the British Deaf Tennis Association with support from the Tennis Foundation.
The idea was to give an introduction to the sport to complete beginners and also encourage some of our more advanced players to develop their game.
There had been festivals in other parts of the country in 2010, including Weybridge in Surrey and one in Coventry, but this was the first one to be held at the NTC and we were very fortunate with some beautiful sunny weather.
There was a real mixture of players that turned up, ranging from some who were coming for their first experience, to several of our latest Great Britain squad players.
I led the coaching team on the day along with Nick Ansell, Tina Napier and reigning National champion Bethany Brookes. We started off with a warm-up so that everybody got involved and had the opportunity to get to know one another before splitting the players into three groups depending on their age.
The younger groups played some fun games and did warm-up exercises involving racket and ball skills, before moving on to developing their ground strokes and learning the basics.
It was great to see players showing promise as well as everyone having fun! For the older players with more developed games there were lots of drills aimed at improving consistency and point play.
The LTA also put on some Cardio Tennis sessions which everyone thoroughly enjoyed and everybody certainly had a good workout! Cardio Tennis is a great new way to hone your tennis skills while getting your heart pumping on court to improve fitness.
After our lunch break the focal point of the afternoon session was match play and competitive tactics. Half way through I was persuaded to take part in a Touch Tennis exhibition match with Nick, which was great entertainment for all to watch. I raced to a 5-0 lead, but Nick came back to take the next game and was really giving me a run for my money. But thankfully he was unable to maintain his good run of points and lost the next game for me to take a 6-1 victory.
At the end of the session prizes donated by Tennis Surrey were given to the winners, with everyone receiving something for their particular special achievement during the day.
Throughout the day information was given to parents about local sessions which will take place on Sunday afternoons at St George’s College in Weybridge, commencing in November. It was a delight to see a lot more people sign up for these sessions as a result of a really successful festival, and my thanks must go to all the players for making it such an enjoyable day and to their parents for bringing them along.
It seems that a brilliant and enjoyable day was had by all and I hope the festival has given the children, particularly those who are new to the deaf tennis scene, a taste of the game and, more importantly, that they are inspired to continue playing tennis.
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