09/12/2010 - How Visually Impaired tennis changed my life

Paul Ryb tells us how playing VI tennis has changed his life for the better and encourages others to get involved.  

When my sight suddenly and rapidly deteriorated in 2007 I had to face up to the fact that I would not be able to do many things I had previously taken for granted. Among the usual lifestyle tasks such as reading, browsing and driving, I was also very concerned that the competitive sporting spirit in me would have to be buried to.

That is until I happened across the marvel that is Odette Battarel. Listening to Odette present at the London W @ M MDS quarterly social evening (something I cannot recommend enough) about her tennis club for blind and partially sighted people, I was reeled in. 

Having loved tennis as a sighted person, I was amazed to learn that not only would I be able to play again in a fun, social and energetic environment, but that there was actually a professionally run national tournament. This was hosted on the 16th-17th October at the very prestigious and impressive National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. Ironically as a sighted person I would never have had the opportunity of playing on such a stage, let alone for a tournament officially recognised by the LTA! 

When I told my friends and family I had taken up tennis again they were fascinated in how the game might work between people of varying sight loss and physical abilities and details like the type of ball used. However, as with any sport it is about the enjoyment of participating first and foremost, and then naturally depending on your competitive spirit, the winning. 

After attending several Friday night tennis practice sessions, which take place from 6-8pm at either Earlsfield or the NTC, complete with a tennis pro coach on hand to help improve your technique, I was primed and ready for the big event.

As a first time participant in the tournament I was simply blown away by the organisational quality, and number of people who had given up their weekend to be either ball girls or referees.  There were also more events than I had appreciated, meaning everyone got to play with people in various categories. 

Over the course of the 2 days, I played in the men’s singles, mixed doubles, men’s doubles and sighted/VI doubles. I revelled in the challenge and although I lost my two matches in the men’s singles, I am very proud to say I returned home, to the amazement of my wife and kids, with three shiny doubles trophies. 

For me, the opportunity to have been able to participate in such a fabulous event was a privilege to which I cannot thank Odette, Metro Sports, the NTC and all the volunteers enough.

The message I wish to convey above all though is no matter what physical challenges you might face in life, if you go searching for ideas and solutions you will find answers and opportunities. 

I get a lot out of participating in the tennis - socially, mentally and physically – I am so glad I got off my backside and gave it a go. It’s a lot of fun, and I cannot recommend it enough.

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 Tennis Foundation and LTA logo

The Tennis Foundation is Great Britain's leading tennis charity and works closely with the LTA to provide opportunities to encourage people to both play and enjoy tennis, as well as to maximise their personal potential through the sport.