16/12/2020

Wendy's Story

WendyGlasper1

Wendy Glasper is from Hartlepool, County Durham and now lives in Darlington.  

She has always been involved in sport ever since having the opportunity at the age of five, at her first school for the blind in Newcastle-upon-Tyne  

Wendy (pictured on the far left) went on to a specialist boarding school in Harrogate and her love for activity grew and grew. From the 1980s onwards, she travelled the UK competing in Metro Blind Sports athletics events, played cricket for Durham and goalball too.  

Taking a UK Coaching course gave Wendy a new focus as she drove the founding of Darlington Kurling Club and helped run a multi-sports Saturday club in the region.  

And a chance encounter with Japanese-designed sound tennis balls saw her build partnerships with clubs and coaches in the north-east, giving rise to North East Visually Impaired Tennis Club. Wendy was named Volunteer of the Year at the LTA Tennis Awards in 2017.  

She has aniridia - a hereditary visual impairment consisting of glaucoma, cataracts and other sight complications.  

Wendy, 60, shared with us her incredible story so far.  

There's one thing my old P.E teacher told me that I've always remembered: if you say you can't do something, you won't do it.  

I never thought I'd be able to somersault over a vaulting box. My first school was in a valley and when there was snow on the ground, we'd be on sledges and we'd be flying down that hill.  

I could do it, and her words came true. I've tried to carry that spirit on in my life.  

I've always been a shy, very quiet person. When you go to boarding school, you're away from home all the time and you don't have friends near home.  

From day one, sport made me put myself out there. It has changed my life in so many ways.  

I would never had made some wonderful, true friends I didn't have before sport - we support each other in so many different ways.  

I've always struggled with my confidence and the first thing that saw me improve it was getting a job as a lift operator in a department store.  

I had to talk to people - I had to ask them what floor they wanted - and that helped.  

Travelling to Manchester, Dublin and London for athletics was a big thing and we used to have an evening dinner and dancing after each event. It was fantastic.  

When I went on my first course, I was just so thrilled to find out I could also coach people! I think the organisers knew I had the spirit and I liked any sport - particularly fast ones.  

Someone I used to work with told me about the visually impaired tennis balls you could get from Japan and I thought - this is great - I've got to find out more. 

I'd never played tennis before. We used to buy a racket to play in the summer but I think I only did it because my friends did. I couldn't hit the ball.  

Now, I'm a Level Two tennis coach.  

Coaching is all about getting people to open up. You've got to listen to your players, give them one-to-one time and work out what they need.  

Hitting a ball that moves is a challenge, and I love when people hit the ball for the first time. The reaction they have is so amazing. They don't get to it for the first 15, 20 times, but when they do, it makes me emotional.  

It's like me when I was younger - they never thought they could do it.  

Tennis has given me the self-belief to do things that some people take for granted and there's nothing better for me than sharing that with younger people.  

Visually impaired tennis features an audible ball and a smaller court with lower nets and tactile lines, and it is one of the fastest-growing disability sports. 

Participation in disability tennis has increased fivefold since 2012, with schemes such as the LTA’s Open Court Programme helping more people get into the game by supporting grassroots activity in an impairment-specific way. 

Live adaptive tennis is available to view on the LTA’s Facebook and YouTube channels from 15 – 17 December as Grand Slam champions and Paralympians such as Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid go for glory in the inaugural Wheelchair Team Battle. 

Alternatively, you can learn more about North East Visually Impaired Tennis Club HERE and use our activity finder tool to filter to sessions suitable for visual impairment.