As a keen amateur club tennis player, I jumped at the chance to deliver some introductory sessions on court, in the name of social prescribing. Having worked in the field for the last seven years, it was a good opportunity to take check of something that I truly believe helps to keep me well-balanced, healthy and to practice what I preach. Having good friends, family connections and a wide range of hobbies, keeps me motivated, resilient, interested and feeling young(ish). I took up tennis when my first child was born, eager to keep fit and to set a good example. For me it quickly became an indispensable hobby and one that had unforeseen benefits. unfortunately, like several sports, tennis can have a bit of a stuffy image and can put some people off: strawberries and cream and pomp and ceremony and all that. I’m not interested in any of that however and with free courts in a lot of parks I think tennis can and should be played by more people and not just during those popular two weeks in mid-summer.
Walking past the courts through Priory Park, several attendees of the Walk & Draw course expressed an interest in having a go but didn’t know where to start or have the equipment to try. Active Black Country helped us to purchase 12 excellent rackets and numerous sets of balls, we were all set (no pun intended). Gather café allow us to store the equipment there so clients accessing support through Integrated Plus and social prescribing can borrow the equipment on a regular basis.
During the initial sessions there were plenty of balls over fences and in the net, but after just a little while the rallies grew longer and the smiles on the players faces, wider. Kenneth and Abdullah (pictured) enjoyed some great competitive tennis and insisted on staying on court long after I had left. They exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for a hit the following week. With the numerous and varied pressures life can bring, running and rolling a court for an hour or so and for free can be a major stress relief and improve physical fitness. For those that don’t quite fancy all that running, or who may not be able, a doubles game provides a much smaller and less exhausting court.
Like the many friends I have made through tennis, it was wonderful to see people exchanging numbers and arranging times to meet and play. Making new friends and staying active make some of life’s struggles that little bit easier to deal with.
Please get in touch with your Link Worker if anyone is interested in getting involved, come rain or shine.
Written by Jason Griffiths (Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker for Sedgley, Coseley and Gornal)