Rapid growth of Blind Tennis in Ireland

February 2016 to December 2017

The rapid growth and development of Blind Tennis in Ireland has been described by Vision Sports Ireland as the fastest ever growth of any sport played by the blind/Vision impaired community.

Following preparatory meetings with the Tennis Foundation in London and the Metro Blind sports club in the Spring of 2016, Blind Tennis was launched in Ireland in May 2016. The launch and growth of the sport has come from a successful collaboration between Tennis Ireland and Vision Sports Ireland.

Since the launch the following has been achieved:
Two pilot programmes were completed in Dublin summer 2016. One of these was at the Tennis Ireland, National Tennis Centre and the other at the leading disability tennis club, Shankill TC.

Tennis Ireland invested in a year long coaching programme in both centres. The clubs now have one junior and two senior groups and comprise of a total of 25 players.

Windsor Tennis Club in Belfast started soon after Dublin in September 2016 supported by Tennis Ireland and Disability Sport Northern Ireland. Windsor now has 15 players.

Sligo tennis club followed in March 2017 which in turn was followed by Navan and Cork.
The total number of players is now 50 and growing.

Further expansion will take place in the first quarter of 2018 in Dundalk, Galway and Waterford and Killaloe.

Coach Education

Tennis Ireland brought over two of the blind tennis coaches from Metrosports in London. They helped at the launch of the sport and ran workshops for a number of tennis Ireland licensed coaches.

Tennis Ireland has incorporated Blind tennis coaching into its professional Level 1 coach education programme . There is now a module within the level 1 programme and 10% of the on court mandatory observation sessions are in disability tennis.

In addition there is a specialist training programme for qualified coaches in blind tennis which comprises online resources, reflective journals, 5 hours on court time and a workshop.

Tennis Ireland develop a 3D model that enables players who have no concept or prior sight of a court to use touch to understand the layout of a court.

Competitive events and structures

December 2016
The first Irish club championships took place involving the two Dublin clubs.

May 2017
The first Irish Blind Tennis team(8 players) competes at the International Blind Tennis Associations world games in Alicante, Spain. One of the Irish athletes is placed 3rd in the B3 sight classification and two of the athletes are placed joint in the B2 sight category.

November 2017
The first Irish Interprovincial tournament takes place between Ulster and Leinster.

February 2018
The 2nd Irish national championships will take place.

April 29 and 30th 2018
Dublin will host the Takei cup (named after the founder of blind tennis). It is hoped that teams from Asia, Europe and perhaps Africa will take part.

Media Coverage

May 2016. RTE(the National Broadcaster) features the Irish Blind Tennis team prior to its’ participation in the Alicante tournament on the main evening news.

RTE also film a programme on the sport as part of their Nationwide series – an early evening programme with one of the highest audience figures.

The Irish team gain national media coverage while in Spain.

Funding and Impact.

Sport Ireland are supporting the development of the sport.

Research has demonstrated very positive impact for the players in terms of health, well being and significant advance in their tennis skills and performance.

Blind Tennis requires significant numbers of volunteers to assist the coaches and players – this is working well and is impacting positively on the clubs involved.

Liam O’Donohoe
Vice President, Leinster Tennis/Tennis Ireland