Bristol tennis community has teamed up with the NHS mental health trust to provide people with mental health problems free weekly tennis lessons to aid their wellbeing.
A partnership between the LTA, local clubs, Avon and Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Trust, the Tennis Foundation and the Bristol Active Life aims to address associated issues around social isolation and low activity levels.
Projects in the city include a weekly tennis and wellbeing session for mothers and under 5s at Kings Lawn Tennis Club, a long-running programme at Knowle Tennis Club in the south of the city for people who have experience, or are living with, a long-term mental illness and welcoming Ability session at Cotham Park Tennis Club that caters to each participant’s needs and Redland Green Club’s programme for those suffering with acute mental health conditions.
Andrew from Bristol takes part in the sessions at Redland Green Club and says: “I started coming along to the sessions in April and it is has made a real difference. The coaches and the club are so welcoming - it’s a great environment here. I used to play tennis when I was younger so to get the chance to play again at this stage of my life is fantastic. I’m so pleased I found out about the programme.”
Coach Toby Huddlestone said: “A lot of the guys that come to the sessions tell me it’s what gets them out of bed on a Tuesday morning and that it enlivens their whole day.”
"It would be great to build this across the city and get to a situation where every tennis club in the city had a programme like this in place. Bristol could really be the model for the rest of the country for this sort of thing.”
Helen Abbott, Disability Tennis Coordinator for Bristol, working with the Tennis Foundation, said: “Bristol is leading the way in using tennis as a means to help those whose mental health prevents them from being able to access mainstream activities. The programmes we run here and at other venues like Cotham, Kings and Knowle are invaluable for the participants and enable them to have a positive physical activity to look forward to each week, to help improve overall fitness and to help reduce a feeling of social isolation.
“We would love to expand these programmes to offer more sessions at more venues across the city and year-round, but the facilities have to be there first. Transforming British Tennis Together is a very exciting opportunity for us to continue making a real difference to people across Bristol and the region.”