‘Tennis has been life-changing, I will be forever grateful to the sport’: Players hail the power of tennis as research shows its positive impact on mental health
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Last week, the government announced tennis as an activity that can be undertaken in England in the current climate, due to its compliance with social distancing restrictions. As a result, people up and down the country have been taking to outdoor courts in parks and clubs to enjoy the physical and mental benefits that tennis brings.
Whilst the physical benefits of playing tennis have long been hailed – with the British Journal of Sports Medicine citing it as a sport that’s good for your body at any age - the impact of the sport on people’s mental health is arguably less well-known.
'Tennis has given me a huge amount of self-confidence'
So, in support of Mental Health Awareness Week, the LTA has released its latest research, showing a link between playing tennis and recreational players’ mental wellbeing. Over the past twelve months, 61% of non-disabled people* who play tennis on a weekly basis, reported feeling more satisfied with their life, compared to 55% of those who have never played. What’s more, simply picking up a racket and playing once a year has a positive impact too, with 55% of annual players feeling their life is more worthwhile compared to 52% who have never picked up a racket.
Across disability tennis, the findings are even more pertinent, with 83% of disabled players** reporting that tennis has had a positive impact on their sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. Further statistics showed that 83% of disabled players also said that tennis has had a positive impact on their social support network, showing that the sport is a great way of making new friends and socialising with others.
Commenting on the benefits of tennis, British player Harriet Dart, 23 – who is part of the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme, said:
"Tennis is a massively important sport for people’s mental health, especially at a time like this. It’s great for a range of ages and abilities, and the social aspect of it plays a big part in its mental health benefits. Anyone can try it, and it’s such a great way to get outside and get moving. For me, it’s been such a release being able to get back on court and play the sport that I love.”
Speaking about her own journey with the sport and the impact tennis has made on her life, 17 year old wheelchair tennis player Abbie Breakwell, who is part of the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme, commented:
“Wheelchair tennis has had such a positive impact both physically and mentally to my life, it also helped me accept my disability better. Over the last five years I have met some amazing people who have showed me such kindness with advice, guidance and support through the good and hard times. Playing wheelchair tennis has helped to boost my self-confidence and shown me that I can achieve great things in life with focus and the right support team. It has been life changing for me and I will be forever grateful to the sport.”
Echoing Abbie’s sentiments, 22 year old Dominic Ianotti, who represents Great Britain in learning disability tennis added:
“Tennis has given me a huge amount of self-confidence through the kindness and support of others and meeting great players and coaches within the industry. It has had a huge impact on my life through coaching full time and being part of the GB National Learning Disability Squad, tennis has opened up great experiences that I’m very thankful to be a part of.”
Visually Impaired tennis player Rosie Pybus, 28, who has also represented Great Britain at International level added:
"I have been playing tennis for around a decade now and it has totally transformed my life. I've had a lot of time to reflect during the past couple of months on lockdown and I have come to realise that tennis and my love for our sport isn't simply about the ability to smack a tennis ball, it's not just about the winning and it's definitely not about the losing! What inspires my love and passion for our sport is the community that surrounds our game! It's as much about what happens off-court as on-court.”
The LTA supports a range of tennis sessions for people with Mental Health problems with funding, coach education and general advice to venues and customers. They are also a supporter of Every Mind Matters – a groundbreaking new mental health campaign from Public Health England, in partnership with the NHS - encouraging everyone involved in tennis to use the simple Every Mind Matters online tool to create a personalised action plan recommending a set of self-care actions that can help deal with stress, boost mood, improve sleep and feel in control.
With tennis listed as one of the activities the nation can safely undertake in the current climate and with the sport proven to improve both your physical and mental health, what better excuse do you need to pick up a racket and play?
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*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was c.18,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 2019 and April 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults, age 16+.
**Based on survey of 158 individuals (Conducted by Britain Thinks)