Since the end of 2019 the Manning Tennis Club has conducted training sessions for people in wheelchairs every Wednesday and Thursday morning.
Demand continues to grow to such an extent another session has been added in recent weeks.
The tennis club is one of only two in WA holding “inclusive” training sessions for people in wheelchairs, with the other being in South Mandurah.
Manning club head coach Dwayne Augustin says wheelchair tennis is still quite new in WA, and their coaches have all had to put extra work in to get up to speed with the sport.
Coach Dwayne Augustin. Video: Daniel Spence.
“With our coaches, we’ve got some coaches that are actually tennis coaches, we’ve also got volunteers who have learned how to coach,” he says.
“Wheelchair tennis is quite new in WA, as coaches we’ve watched videos, as a club we’ve worked with players to see what works.”
Program coordinator of Rebound WA Hayden Lewis says when it comes to the issue of wheelchair tennis, price and accessibility are crucial.
“Wheelchair tennis is not played in a wheelchair that you see people out and about with, It is played in a very specialised sports wheelchair that are very expensive. For somebody new who wants to try out the sport there aren’t many around,” he says.
He says there’s a participation issue as wheelchair tennis is not currently as popular as wheelchair basketball, meaning less available equipment in the short term.
This issue was brought up in gold medal winner andThe 2022 Australian of the year Dylan Alcott’s raised the accessibility of program like this in his award speech. He called for disabled people to have access to the same opportunities as able bodied people: “My purpose is changing perceptions so people like me can get out there and live the lives they deserve to live,” he said in January.
Mr Hayden says in order for clubs to hold training sessions they must first ensure they are accessible to people with wheelchairs. He also says they need specialised sports wheelchairs that can be borrowed for training sessions, and coaches eager to learn and respond to the demand for more inclusive opportunities.
Mr Augustin says although there are challenges, there is significant reward that comes from seeing the faces of the smiling kids as they are able to get out there and participate in tennis.