Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club (BLTC) and Down Syndrome Cork (DSC) have launched the “Team Up For Tennis” programme. This programme, which is the first of its kind in Ireland will provide tennis coaching for children with Down Syndrome and will have an emphasis on functional fitness. Sessions will be held in BLTC on Saturday mornings, for children aged between 10 and 12 years.
The programme was developed by Therese McNamee, who is the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. Therese’s ten year old daughter, Anna, has enjoyed the after school tennis program at BTLC for many years and is now ready to move up to the next level. However, Therese explains “she does not possess the skills necessary to participate at the next level, as the jump is too great. Some kids with Down Syndrome are able to move on, but for the majority of our children, the opportunity for continued inclusion in their local tennis club, along with their siblings and friends, ends here. This is unfortunate, especially when it has been such a big part of their lives until now and a part that has brought with it many health and social benefits, not least to mention the benefits to the club afforded by the inclusion of this very special community of people.”
Team up for Tennis provides a practical solution. Each tennis player on the programme will arrive for training with a ‘friend’, who will accompany the player on court. The ‘tennis friends’ will lend additional support and encouragement to the tennis players as needed. Friends can be any adult or teenage friend of the tennis player. This significantly reduces the coach participant ratio, allowing a large group of kids to be trained by a single coach, at the same time. The program will have music playing and an array of carefully selected fun activities.
Club Chairman Joe Murray said: “We are thrilled to be offering this unique opportunity for children with Down Syndrome to participate in a community tennis program. The beauty of this program is in its simplicity. Other sporting programs recruit volunteers, but this is more complicated. Our program is much easier to run and to organise, just bring a friend.”
Children with Down Syndrome often require extra assistance in organized sporting activities, which requires extra staff. This becomes cost-prohibitive and as a result tennis clubs have in the past shied away from such programs.
The program will be led by the club’s head coach, Conor Twomey.
Conor Twomey said: “This is a fantastic programme and we are very excited about launching it at the club. No previous tennis experience is required by either the players or the “tennis friends” and all that is needed is a positive attitude and a desire to have some fun.”
BLTC is also encouraging other tennis clubs in Ireland to participate in the programme.
Therese said: “This time next year we are hoping to host a national tournament, where other clubs from around the country, who have also implemented Team Up for Tennis, will convene in Bishopstown for a tournament and fun day. Following which (with the kind permission of Down Syndrome Cork) we will spill over to the Field of Dreams, just five minutes’ drive away, for an evening party and barbeque!”
Ray O’Callaghan, from Down Syndrome Cork, said: “We are delighted to link up with Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club and would like to thank the BLTC committee for their huge support and foresight on this and also Therese McNamee for driving it. Our kids with Down Syndrome will benefit hugely from this fantastic Programme.”
Down Syndrome Cork provides services for over 400 members of all ages, including older adults, at the Field of Dreams site, in Curraheen.
Further details on registration information, please email Down Syndrome Cork at firstname.lastname@example.org and for information on implementing a similar program in your club, please email BLTC at email@example.com