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A group of four men stood on a blue sports court, either side of a net. They are all holding bats of a variety of colours.

A group of four men stood on a blue sports court, either side of a net. They are all holding bats of a variety of colours.
A group of four men stood on a blue sports court, either side of a net. They are all holding bats of a variety of colours.

A surprise padel session with Joe and Chris Salisbury for one young padel player


Ahead of the cinch Championships this year, one young padel player was invited by the LTA Tennis Foundation to attend an exclusive session at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, with LTA Padel Coach, Theo Crouch.  

Unbeknown to him, a surprise had been arranged in the form of British doubles number one, and 4-time doubles Grand Slam champion Joe Salisbury and his brother, top British padel player Chris Salisbury coming along to play with him.  

James attends inclusive padel sessions at Sundridge Park, who are funded by a grant from the LTA Tennis Foundation, and has been playing padel for just over a year. James has Down's Syndrome, learning difficulties, hearing loss, no speech and autism, and his main method of communication is Makaton sign language. He loved the sessions so much, he started one-to-one coaching, which had an amazing effect.  

A woman stands in the middle of a group of men, making hand gestures towards one of the group. The two men oin the right of ther group are wearing hoodies, while the man in the middle, stood in the background, is holding a microphone.
Joe and Chris Salisbury meet with James on the padel courts at the National Tennis Centre.

When James arrived at the National Tennis Centre, he was introduced to Theo as they went to the padel courts to get started. As they were warming up, Joe and Chris entered the court, which as you can imagine was a bit of an epic moment!   

James was introduced to both, and the players were shown some of the Makaton signs James uses to communicate when playing padel, to help make the experience inclusive. The game commenced, and James showed off his skills, swapping partners throughout the games.  

James’s mum, Jackie, attended the day and supported James with his communication, singing for him where translation was needed so James was always involved in the conversation. While James was playing, she spoke to Simon Mundie from the BBC, who were there to capture the whole experience, about the impact padel has had on James and taught Simon some Makaton sign language.  

Chris Salisbury commented “It (padel) is such an accessible game for anyone, they can come on, play with their family, play with their friends. There are some elements that make it slightly easier to get on court and play, technically it is a little simpler, you are closer together, things like that make it a bit easier to play – it is such a great sport like that!”

After the game finished, Joe took James inside the National Tennis Centre to show him his US Open trophy and, to James’s delight, he could hold it.  

Experiences like this will stay with someone for a lifetime, and we cannot thank James and Jackie enough for sharing their story.  

The feature was shown on the Friday of the cinch Championships, on the BBC - head to 54:00 to watch.


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