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Diversity and Inclusion

Meet the South London Smashers - the grassroot LGBT+ group challenging perceptions in tennis

• 3 MINUTE READ

LGBT+ inclusion within sport is an ongoing conversation and tennis groups like the South London Smashers are doing their part to break down barriers and begin open and honest conversations around diversity, being your authentic self and the social power of sports like tennis.

The film forms part of Play Your Way, launched by the LTA last year as a commitment to opening up tennis and an invitation to anyone and everyone to get involved in the game. In line with this vision of ‘tennis opened up’, the piece highlights the impactful work that the South London Smashers are doing and their controibution to inclusion within the sport.

The founder and organiser of the South London Smashers, Ryan Watson, set up the group to create a more inclusive community. He found that he had to continue explaining his identity to new people, so he created an environment where players could feel safe, meet new people and have fun on court.

"The main thing for us was trying to find a space that was safe to play in where anyone could come and just be themselves," he said.

"We’ve opened the door to allow so many new players to come and play with us who have never felt comfortable enough to pick up a racket before."

south-london-smashers-800x300.jpg

He encourages people to come along and “enjoy themselves and be themselves” even if they have never played before. The group has had around 200 people join the sessions, with 95% returning, showing the effectiveness of a proactive inclusive approach.

In the feature, Ryan is joined by group members, Matt, Kazu, Daniele and Santiago to reflect on what the group means for them, how it’s helped them meet new people, and the positive impact the sessions have had on their mental health.

"I started playing tennis and then just after that I got diagnosed with a few issues surrounding my mental health and tennis became something much stronger," said Santiago.

"When I was waking up in the morning I had something positive to look forward to, when other times I wouldn’t want to do anything, so the Smashers gave me an opportunity to feel good and they do an amazing job."

south-london-smashers-2-800x300.jpg

The latest research shows that of all the major sports, tennis currently comes out as the most open and welcoming to LGBTQI+ players – but more progress needs to be made and the LTA continues to strive for further inclusion and diversity in all areas of the sport. South London Smashers and groups like them across Britain are key part of that, and in the video Ryan outlines the importance of tennis venues and coaches helping to create inclusive spaces whereby people can be themselves.

In May, the LTA published its new Inclusion Strategy for tennis in Britain, with an ambition to lead the way on inclusion and diversity in sport. The strategy sets out five key areas of work with 25 commitments to drive change, underpinned by 46 priority actions that aim to embed a culture of everyday inclusion across the tennis community.

To support that work, the LTA has also established the IDEA Group (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility), which acts as a forum to listen to and engage with diverse representatives from across tennis and help the national governing body drive the implementation of the Inclusion Strategy for the sport.

The South London Smashers current locations are Tanner Street Park and King George’s Park and the group runs four-week courses, drop-in sessions, Saturday Tennis Double matches and Tournaments. The group has over 700 members on the event platform Meetup.com/southlondonsmashers.

Get involved
Inspired to pick up a racket and get on court this summer? Find out how you can book a coach, find a coach or join a Local Tennis league, here.
Meet the South London Smashers | The grassroot LGBT+ group challenging perceptions in tennis

The film forms part of Play Your Way, launched by the LTA last year as a commitment to opening up tennis and an invitation to anyone and everyone to get involved in the game. In line with this vision of ‘tennis opened up’, the piece highlights the impactful work that the South London Smashers are doing and their controibution to inclusion within the sport.

The founder and organiser of the South London Smashers, Ryan Watson, set up the group to create a more inclusive community. He found that he had to continue explaining his identity to new people, so he created an environment where players could feel safe, meet new people and have fun on court.

"The main thing for us was trying to find a space that was safe to play in where anyone could come and just be themselves," he said.

"We’ve opened the door to allow so many new players to come and play with us who have never felt comfortable enough to pick up a racket before."

south-london-smashers-800x300.jpg

He encourages people to come along and “enjoy themselves and be themselves” even if they have never played before. The group has had around 200 people join the sessions, with 95% returning, showing the effectiveness of a proactive inclusive approach.

In the feature, Ryan is joined by group members, Matt, Kazu, Daniele and Santiago to reflect on what the group means for them, how it’s helped them meet new people, and the positive impact the sessions have had on their mental health.

"I started playing tennis and then just after that I got diagnosed with a few issues surrounding my mental health and tennis became something much stronger," said Santiago.

"When I was waking up in the morning I had something positive to look forward to, when other times I wouldn’t want to do anything, so the Smashers gave me an opportunity to feel good and they do an amazing job."

south-london-smashers-2-800x300.jpg

The latest research shows that of all the major sports, tennis currently comes out as the most open and welcoming to LGBTQI+ players – but more progress needs to be made and the LTA continues to strive for further inclusion and diversity in all areas of the sport. South London Smashers and groups like them across Britain are key part of that, and in the video Ryan outlines the importance of tennis venues and coaches helping to create inclusive spaces whereby people can be themselves.

In May, the LTA published its new Inclusion Strategy for tennis in Britain, with an ambition to lead the way on inclusion and diversity in sport. The strategy sets out five key areas of work with 25 commitments to drive change, underpinned by 46 priority actions that aim to embed a culture of everyday inclusion across the tennis community.

To support that work, the LTA has also established the IDEA Group (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility), which acts as a forum to listen to and engage with diverse representatives from across tennis and help the national governing body drive the implementation of the Inclusion Strategy for the sport.

The South London Smashers current locations are Tanner Street Park and King George’s Park and the group runs four-week courses, drop-in sessions, Saturday Tennis Double matches and Tournaments. The group has over 700 members on the event platform Meetup.com/southlondonsmashers.

Get involved
Inspired to pick up a racket and get on court this summer? Find out how you can book a coach, find a coach or join a Local Tennis league, here.