Game, Set and Match

Yesterday morning I was privileged to witness and be a part of a really special event on the main courts at Memorial Drive, S.A.’s home of tennis. Some of the world’s best tennis players past and present have played right where we stood! Thousands of roaring spectators have sat in the grandstands either side of the courts and been mesmerized by athletes showcasing their efforts of many years hard of work through their skill, talent, sportsmanship and courage. Courage. Whilst on the courts I reflected a bit on the courage that would have been shown in bucket loads here over the years. The first figure that popped into my head was that of a young Lleyton Hewitt announcing his presence to the world when he defeated Andre Agassi many moons ago. Additionally significant given that it was the same time that he had just played his last match at Wimbledon. I also thought about teamwork. Although we generally think of tennis as being an individual sport, behind every player is a team. A group of people all working together to support a common cause.

My purpose for being on the courts was not to participate in a world series tennis event and there certainly wasn’t thousands of spectators in the stand either. I did however witness teamwork and loads of courage. Yesterday was the final session of Blind Tennis for a special bunch of kids from the South Australian School for Vision Impaired. For the last eight weeks they have been jumping right out of their comfort zones, picking up a racket and learning about the sport of tennis. Was the game modified? Yep of course. Soft foam balls with a bell in them. Was it challenging learning and even coaching tennis to visually impaired young kids? Yes absolutely at times it was for everyone. Did anyone ever give up and say it was too hard. No chance! Were there any five set thrillers during the sessions? Nope but there’s no reason why not in the future! Did the kids enjoy learning something new? The smiles on their faces told me they did.

This program of blind tennis would not have been possible had it not been for a team of people working together. Teamwork. The great thing about a team is that everyone brings to it their own strengths and a successfully functioning team creates a space for everyone to use their strengths to the best of their ability. That is exactly what we had throughout this program. Rajini Vasan and Tom Changarathil from Blind Sports Council Australia sought funding to enable a program to be created. A portion of this funding came in the form of sponsorship from Homestart Finance. Kent Dredge from Blind Sport South Australia was then approached. Kent enthusiastically delivers various sports training to the students at South Australia School for Vision Impaired and he quickly jumped at the opportunity to learn about and co-deliver tennis. The school and its staff were excited at the prospect of introducing the students to a new sport and swiftly locking in dates was evidence of this. Once informed of the proposed tennis program, Tennis S.A. and particularly Andrew Wilson, Participation Manager for the south were more than happy to participate and very generously supported it by providing a coach as well as all the equipment. They also hosted the final session at their home, Memorial Drive. This was a team effort. Each party bringing to the table their strength and importantly a willingness to work with all the others to create a learning opportunity for a group of young people. A learning opportunity that hopefully was just as beneficial to all of the adults as it was to the kids.

Presenting the certificates to the students at the end of their session yesterday provided a special moment to reflect on the courage they had shown and the team work that had made it all possible.

Sport truly is awesome!

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