The idea has been a smash hit in Cork.
A first-of-its-kind programme providing tennis coaching for teenagers with Down Syndrome now has ambitions to expand to other tennis clubs around Ireland.
Team Up For Tennis operates at Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club (BLTC) in association with Down Syndrome Cork (DSC) on Saturday mornings.
It works like this; each tennis player on the programme arrives for training with a ‘friend’, who accompanies the player on court.
The ‘tennis friends’ lend additional support and encouragement to the tennis players, as needed. Friends can be any adult or teenage friend of the tennis player and this significantly reduces the coach-participant ratio, allowing a large group of kids to be trained by a single coach at the same time.
Friends in tennis
The programme was developed by Therese McNamee whose 12-year-old daughter, Anna, had enjoyed the after-school tennis program at BTLC for many years and was ready to move up to the next level.
However, Therese explains “she didn’t possess the skills necessary to participate at the next level, as the jump was simply too great. 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 for so long, 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.”
Now Bishopstown Credit Union has agreed to sponsor new equipment for the programme, which has allowed it to expand and grow.
“Thanks to this funding, we were able to acquire a diverse range of equipment that keeps our program exciting and the children eagerly coming back each week. One of the most beloved purchases is a giant multi-coloured parachute that the children raise in the air and run underneath, in addition to a portable music system on wheels, pre-loaded with the athletes’ favourite hits by their much loved, Coach Conor.”
Therese recently collaborated with Fitz Fitness in Ballincollig, who have now also developed a specialised strength and conditioning program for young adults with Down Syndrome called Team Up with Fitz.
“Given the coaches’ enthusiasm and expertise, I have no doubt that it will rapidly gain popularity, much like TUT!” added Therese.
“The aspiration is for the Team Up concept to extend not only throughout other tennis clubs, but also to various other sports, providing our children with a wide range of suitable activities to choose from.”
To find out more about Team Up For Tennis, contact Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club.