Visually Impaired Tennis
RAPID GROWTH OF BLIND TENNIS IN IRELAND
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.
Key milestones in visually impaired tennis in Ireland:
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 over 50.
Further expansion followed in Dundalk, Galway and Waterford and Killaloe and will continue in the years ahead.
Tennis Ireland brought two of the blind tennis coaches from Metrosports in London to Dublin to share their knowledge and experience of the sport. They helped launch the sport in Ireland and ran workshops for a number of Tennis Ireland licensed coaches.
Tennis Ireland has developed 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.
Tennis Ireland has since 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, five hours on court time and a workshop.
Competitive events and structures
The first Irish club championships took place involving the two Dublin clubs.
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.
The first Irish Interprovincial tournament takes place between Ulster and Leinster.
The second Irish national championships will take place.
April 29 and 30th 2018
Dublin hosted the Takei cup (named after the founder of blind tennis with teams from all over the world taking part.
In 2016, RTE, (the Irish National Broadcaster) featured the Irish Blind Tennis team prior to its’ participation in the Alicante tournament on the main evening news.
RTE also filmed a programme on the sport as part of their Nationwide series, a hugely popular series with one of the highest audience figures.
Funding and Impact.
Sport Ireland are supporting the development of the sport.
Research has demonstrated a 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.
The Blind Tennis programme in Shankill Tennis Club is led by Liam O’Donohoe, Vice President, Leinster Tennis/Tennis Ireland.