How tennis at Lee Valley is helping to improve people’s mental health
• 3 MINUTE READ
Over the last six and a half years Jack Pringle, Sport and Active Recreation Manager at Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has seen first-hand the impact participation in tennis can have on improving people’s mental health.
This week, as we mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we highlight one of the many LTA Open Court Tennis programmes devised to help combat mental health issues.
Over at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Jack and the venue team work in partnership with two local organisations; Core Arts, a leading mental health creative education centre based in Hackney, and the East London NHS Foundation Trust. The three-way partnership enables the organisations to work collaboratively to achieve a number of shared aims and objectives, with tennis acting as a vehicle to provide a release or an escape and to drive a more positive mental wellbeing.
The tennis sessions at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, east London, are delivered as part of the LTA’s Open Court programme and take place once a week with two sessions available, one for beginners and one for intermediate to advanced players, and include a mixture of drills, coaching and match play.
“We work with two specialist partners in the field of mental health and they know full well the challenges that these individuals face every day.” Said Jack.
“Since we started these sessions back in 2015, we have had well over 100 participants take part in the tennis programme with our LTA qualified coaches, with 37 signed up in 2022 and an average of 20 players per session.
"It has been evident over the last six years that sport can play a key role in tackling some of the challenges individuals face, with a large number of success stories."
Making an impact beyond the court
Working collectively allows the three organisations to measure impact against a number of pre agreed aims and objectives, as Jack mentions.
“Together we measure the impact these sessions have on the participants involved by asking our partner organisations to outline what their priorities are and what their desired outcomes are.
“For example, a priority could be to reduce isolation, with the desired outcome for members being a bigger social network and/or to make friends with others who have a common interest, such as tennis. This would lead to participants helping each other to play tennis outside of the weekly session at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
The results have been positive across the board with pre-pandemic results showing that 75% of members self-reported that they use their GP, A&E and emergency services less often, or not at all, and have more of a social support network. 95% of members also reported that they now use sport as a coping tool when feeling that their mood has lowered, or they are stressed, anxious or depressed rather than harmful coping tools such as isolation, self-harm, self-neglect.
In addition to these successes, three Core Arts members are in the process of completing their Level 1 LTA coaching qualification, having received funding from the LTA. Following completion of the qualification, the plan is for these individuals to run peer-led tennis sessions in their local community.
Growing awareness of mental health issues
Over the last few years, we have witnessed professional athletes from across several sports use their status and platform to spread awareness about mental health, something Jack feels is important in making people aware of how this disorder can affect anyone.
“Mental health is certainly on people’s radar and top athletes, who young boys and girls look up to, speaking out is a good thing. It is something that people should be encouraged to talk about, with evidence showing that this can and will help.”
“At the same time, it is good to know that there are targeted programmes, interventions and support out there, including many sport and physical activity opportunities delivered by community leisure centres such as Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.”
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To find out more about the dedicated Mental Health Tennis programme at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, in partnership with Core Arts and the East London NHS Foundation Trust please...