Bristol-based coach serves weekly wellbeing tennis sessions for mums
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We caught up with Elly Shearman, head coach at Kings Tennis Club in Bristol, to find out more about her Ladies’ Wellbeing and Tots tennis programme for new mums in the local community.
After the birth of her first child, Elly recognised that there were limited opportunities for new mums in the local area to engage in physical activities with their babies and toddlers, and wanted to use tennis as a platform to get women active and benefit their wellbeing.
Thanks to funding through the LTA’s Open Court programme, which forms part of the governing body’s work to open up tennis to new audiences, Elly was able to set up her Ladies’ Wellbeing and Tots tennis programme, which she now runs all year round with her husband Francois.
The weekly Monday morning sessions allow women to enjoy playing tennis, improve their game and socialise with other new mums in the Bristol area. Mums are invited to bring their babies in buggies which can be left at the side of the court, or if they’re a little older, they can attend the concurrent toddlers’ session which is packed full of fun games and activities. After the sessions, everyone is encouraged to stay on for tea and biscuits in the clubhouse.
Elly said: “Having had my own children, it was a bit of an eye opener to learn that there was such a lack of activities for mums; activitites that really allow you to relax and do something for yourself. We started the sessions in 2015 with the support of the LTA, originally as a six-week taster and it was really popular. We now we have around 50 women signed on to the programme.
“I think it’s great for the mums’ mental wellbeing to be outside and get active. The sessions give them a full body workout so they feel like they have done something and it’s benefiting their health – both physical and mental. But it’s also very social; they can have a chat with other mums and many women have said they have made friends when otherwise they have felt isolated after having kids."
Joey Walker, one of the mums who regularly attends Elly’s session, comments on how much she enjoys the programme and its benefits: “I think the physical, mental and social elements of sport are massive and this initiative is great because it’s just for mums. There aren’t many other activities where you can come, with your child and do the same sport at the same time, be coached and play together.”
The LTA’s Open Court programme supports tennis activity for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, and is one of the largest and most successful of its kind in sport with record numbers of people playing. Tennis activity specifically designed to support positive mental health, such as Elly’s Ladies’ Wellbeing and Tots sessions in Bristol, is a growing part of the programme across Great Britain with participation numbers increasing by 120% over the last two years.