To mark World Sight Day, we highlight how tennis truly is a sport for all.
An absence of limits is a powerful motivator for Ian Ketteringham, as the long-time coach builds on the success of blind and low vision tennis programs in Perth.
“The feedback from the participants has been truly motivating,” said Ketteringham, who operates his The Tennis Pro coaching business from Alexander Park and Nollamara Tennis Clubs.
“We hear the comment ‘I never imagined I would be able to hit the ball, let alone play tennis. Yet here I am doing it’.”
Participants experience the sport using sponge balls with a built-in rattle, that are typically black or yellow in colour. Bounces are allowed, with the number changing according to the grade of the player’s vision impairment. (B1 have three bounces; B2 and B3 have two).
“The coaching sessions are designed to build the player’s confidence through their ability to track the ball, then strike the ball,” Ketteringham explained. “A big part of the initial experience is getting used to the ball, the sound it makes and the way it bounces and travels through the air.”
Several people have been key to the success of the blind and low vision program, including The Tennis Pro coaches Dan Bentel and Tiana Staines, as well as Ben Row (President of Blind Sports WA), Ryan Honschooten (Youth Support Officer from Visibility WA) and Paula Gates (Project Leader, Clubs and Inclusion, Tennis West).
From a pilot that began with Tennis West’s encouragement, blind and low vision tennis is now showing many signs of growth.
“There is no limit to what people are capable of,” said Ketteringham. “We have adapted our coaching techniques and learnt new ones along the way and continue to innovate in our approach.”
And as off-court social interaction adds to enjoyment, there are equal rewards in knowing the future is bright.
“There are plans to hold a blind and low vision tournament later this year in Perth,” said a proud Ketteringham.
“We are only just beginning to discover what is possible and are very excited about the adventure ahead.”
This article originally appeared in Australian Tennis Magazine.