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How an LTA Tennis Foundation grant making programme is improving mental wellbeing through tennis

• 4 MINUTE READ

The LTA Tennis Foundation is on a mission to improve lives through tennis and one of the ways it achieves this is through its grant making programme.

We want to introduce you to a Tennis Club in Hinkley, who are delivering a programme, supported by a grant from the LTA Tennis Foundation, who are changing the perception of what tennis means, and utilising it to support the mental and physical wellbeing of people within their community - welcome to Feel Good Tennis.

Feel Good Tennis delivers both physical and mental wellbeing opportunities for children and adults helping them to manage anxiety issues, build confidence and get physically active.

Since the pandemic, there has been a 39% rise in a year in referrals for NHS mental health treatment for under-18s, to more than a million in 2021/22, while the number of adults experiencing some sort of depression has doubled. With statistics like these, it makes the need for programmes like Feel Good Tennis even greater.

We chatted to Laura from Hinkley Town Tennis Club, one of the people driving this initiative, and asked her what their inspiration for the programme was, “I was sat chatting with a committee member and the club chair on a Saturday morning, discussing the current state of the world post-Covid, and how the key NHS workers were still experiencing a lot of stresses and strains" Laura said.

"In addition to this, how children and young people’s development had been highly impacted by the lockdowns. We felt as a community organisation, there must be more we could do.”

After the initial discussions, it was decided that they would develop a six week programme which would have two focusses that worked in harmony – Tennis Skills and Mindfulness. The next step was to speak with professionals in each area to develop what the sessions would look like.

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What do the sessions look like?

Each session starts with an introduction to tennis skills, starting in week one with the basics and building up to feeling confident enough to play in a fun double's tournament by week six.

Following the weekly tennis skills session, the group transitions into the wellbeing element, designed to relax the mind and ensure quality time to rest and relax.

At each session there is a topic for discussion facilitated by the class leader. These include managing stress, building self-compassion, and creating positive routines, all designed to support individuals with the issues we face in the modern, fast-paced world.

The goal is that at the end of the six weeks, individuals feel they have the skills to manage how they feel in stressful situations. For some people, they have been introduced to tennis for the first time, which we all know comes with heaps of benefits such as improved physical health, but are also provided with a community where they feel safe to talk and supported.

The hope is that individuals will also transition into longer term players of the game, so they can continue enjoying the benefits that tennis has to offer.

One participant said, “I have attended 5 of the 6 sessions so far and have enjoyed every single one - both the tennis and meditation sessions were equally fun and relaxing.

"Although I have never played tennis before, the tennis sessions have really made me realise how much I have missed being active and playing sports. I will certainly be joining a tennis club soon, which I am looking forward to.

Attending these sessions has helped me improve my wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Meeting new people and enjoying the sessions with fun members and staff has been a bonus.

The sessions look slightly different for children with them being delivered in a school. The Feel Good Tennis team take over a lesson and adapt the session to be suitable for children. They start by getting them moving and then again, move on to exploring how things make them feel, and supporting them to build a toolkit to help them manage their emotions.

One teacher, whose class took part in the sessions said, “The impact of covid has been far reaching with a number of children dealing with emotional based issues. After these sessions, one of the students was able to describe that they felt angry and could recognise it because of how their body felt. Such huge progress for that child and there are many similar stories.” 

The LTA Tennis Foundation dedicates its funding to organisations who are passionate about improving lives through tennis. Neil, one of the Founders of Feel Good Tennis said, “The grant that Hinckley Town Tennis Club has received from the LTA Tennis Foundation has made a massive difference. It has enabled us to take what started out as a germ of an idea and turn it into a fully-fledged programme. It has allowed us to employ highly skilled wellbeing professionals to deliver impactful tailor-made wellbeing sessions.

"Working with schools has been so rewarding, as we have taken tennis to them, whilst giving the school some much needed support for children's mental health. The impact we are seeing on those that have completed the programme has been substantial and we can't wait to deliver it into more school settings and wider groups across our community.”

If you are keen to join the LTA Tennis Foundation community and keep up to date with the life-changing work they are doing, then sign up to the dedicated mailing list at the link below.

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