June Club of the Month!
When it comes to disability sport, Andy Bell and Chesterfield Tennis Club are proving a smash hit at breaking down barriers and proving people wrong.
Andy is the Tennis Services Manager and part-owner of Tennis Chesterfield, a tennis outreach company which calls Chesterfield Tennis Club home.
Since getting involved at the club 15 years ago as a keen volunteer while doing his coaching qualifications, Andy has overseen the tremendous growth of a club which proves that sport has the power to help disabled people realise their potential.
The club has cultivated a real community spirit, finding ways to get anyone and everyone involved, and it’s been recognised for its work – having won the Active Derbyshire Inclusive Club of the Year award for the past six years in a row and been named Midlands Club of the Year by the LTA in 2020.
“We really strive to make our club a friendly, welcoming place to be,” Andy said.
“It’s not necessarily about getting anyone to be a world-beater, it’s about the social aspects, growing the social groups, making friends.
“Learning life skills, from meeting new people to being put in different situations. We try and make it so it’s somewhere where they feel included and where everybody around the club all accept everybody.
“We’ve got a really good social atmosphere. The parents will sit together, chat and share their lives – it’s like therapy for the parents as well.
“We’re famous for being a big community. It’s just great to see everyone in a happy place and have somewhere where they can enjoy the sport.”
Andy’s role is wide-reaching and he balances his time at Chesterfield Tennis Club with helping other clubs and coaches improve their inclusivity across Derbyshire.
Andy and his team provide ‘inclusion awareness’ outreach sessions to local schools and nursing homes in which they show off the many ways you can adapt tennis with adaptive equipment and the benefits it has.
Using a vast array of practices and equipment to help people with various impairments, Andy thinks outside of the box to keep people engaged – his latest idea being a ‘tennis therapy session’, combining a physical and mental health focus and incorporating a physiotherapist for a more sensory experience.
“I just enjoy it so much, I don’t see it as a job, it’s more of a lifestyle really,” Andy said.
“I feel so strongly that every sports club should have to do a certain qualification and it should be mandatory to include disabled people in sport.”
Even lockdown couldn’t keep a good man down, and Andy and the club kept going by producing fun and educational Youtube videos in an effort to keep members active and working on their skills at home.
In addition, the club invested in an online platform which acted as their own private Facebook-like social app complete with a newsfeed, direct messaging, videos and statuses for members so they could share and maintain social connection through the lockdowns safely.
It’s for this adaptability and the way the club engages huge numbers of people no matter what that they’ve been named Parasport Club of the Month for June.
“When we first went into lockdown there was that worry of what life was going to be like after,” Andy added. “Is there going to be a tennis club still there standing? Can we carry on?
“We decided not to rest, we did loads of YouTube videos of simple skills and ways you could progress them. With a lot of kids out of school we thought to use maths and English in those sessions too.
“That and the app was a way that people could stay connected, it was a way to keep morale up.
“Without our club there’d be more and more disabled people who are inactive. If you ask the parents today they’ll say there’s hardly anything out there for their kids.
“We have a lot of young adults or children with learning disabilities and autism – when they start coming to the club they’re mainly pretty quiet but they’ve all come out of their shell.
“They all feel comfortable and they’ve all made friends for life. They’ve obviously got better at tennis and built their co-ordination up, they’re more athletic. It’s making their lives a lot better.”
If you want to try tennis, get involved with Chesterfield Tennis club by clicking HERE