Ulster Blind Tennis Team
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Five of the Ulster VI Blind tennis team have qualified for the Irish team for the World Championships in Dublin on the 26-30 April 2018. We set up this page to support the players with the costs of attending the World Championships. Our target is to support 50% of the costs so that this is not a barrier to them competing after all the hard work they put in on the road to their dreams. Any extra money will be used to buy equipment for Blind Tennis in Ulster. The players have come through local and national playoffs to make the team and will represent Ireland against the top countries such as Japan, Germany, Great Britain and Australia next month. Read more about how Blind Tennis originated in Ulster :
Disability Sport NI approached Windsor Lawn Tennis Club and asked us if we could run a tennis session for people with sight loss. Everyone who attended the session really enjoyed it and wanted to know if and when they could come and play again. After this, Disability Sport NI and Windsor Lawn Tennis Club worked in partnership to develop and run 10 week taster sessions free of charge. Those who attended the first session came back to participate in the 10 week programme. This programme was so successful that it was extended further by 6 weeks and a second weekly session was introduced to meet the demand.
Each week, the participants are playing on a modified tactile court, playing with modified rackets suited to their classification and play with ‘Buzz Balls’ that are approved and recognised by the International Blind Tennis Association. These balls are made of foam and have bells inside them which make a noise when the ball bounces and is hit. Therefore, the players have to rely on their hearing to track the ball. Each week the participants work on racket technique, court orientation, different shots and tracking the balls.
To run the sessions effectively, currently we need 7/8 volunteers to support the players, feed balls to players and look after guide dogs. The need for a high number of volunteers restricts the number of players in each session. However, this ensures that everyone remains active for the duration of the session. We have been training on a weekly basis and the improvement of these players throughout the programme is incredible and we are very proud of them all. Here is a quote from one of our participants who has Albinism and subsequently has sight loss:
‘’I went to blind tennis for the first time yesterday and never enjoyed anything as much. When I was at school I dreaded each PE day, when it came to team games I was always the last person chosen. I hated it, but now for the first time in my life I have found a sport that I know I am going to enjoy and hopefully excel at. Thank you guys, especially Simon (coach) Judith (Disability Sport NI) and Olive (RNIB)’’
Check out the vimeo video below to learn more about the players in our programme.
Below is a picture of the 5 members of the Ulster Team that have been selected for Ireland for next months World Championships.
From L-R – Top Row – Brian Lenehan, Debbie Shaw, Dessie Rooney. Bottom Row – Lisa McLaughlin, Andrea Hope