Get Inspired: Goz & Ross take on tennis
Fresh from the chill of the ski slope, it was time for myself and Goz to take on one of Britain's best-loved summer sports, Tennis.
Other than the odd lesson in PE at high school, I have no real experience of Tennis and I didn't have any particularly strong feelings about it beforehand. In fact, as far as I was concerned, this was a nice, leisurely sport, complete with strawberries, cream and the great British sunshine. Wrong.
Firstly, our lesson took place indoors on a chilly, overcast day in Yorkshire (despite the sun always shining in God's own county) and secondly- this is no 'leisurely' sport.
From our arrival at the John Charles Centre for Sport (one of the leading venues for disability sport in the UK), it was obvious that this would be no 'easy ride.' On the court opposite, a game of Visually Impaired tennis was taking place with one of the players ranked second in the whole country. Whereas, on our court, we were faced with Nick, who is currently training for a place in the Wheelchair Racing squad at Rio 2016. I don't know how we always end up in these pickles…
Hitting the ball is hard enough; let alone hitting it in the right direction, within the correct lines, over the net and on target. Throw in a Serve or two and it's enough to send you into a sporting frenzy! Having said that, I actually really enjoyed the session and could have happily carried on way into the night. I found it really quite addictive and even though I wasn't particularly any good, I was eager to improve and weirdly felt that I had some sort of potential.
What's great about Tennis too is that it's accessible to all. It was easy enough for myself and Goz to play together. It's also very flexible in that you can play as a team or as a soloist… I guess dependent on how social you're feeling on the day!
Although I have to admit, I do have a new-found respect for Tennis after discovering just how much skill is involved. At professional level, you clearly need a high level of fitness, coordination and tactical intelligence to succeed. However, at an amateur level, this is a really good fun sport that appeals to all ages, genders and abilities.
I genuinely really enjoyed myself during the session and am seriously considering this as a sport that I will continue for years to come. Who knows, this might not be the last time you see me with a racket and ball…
A friend once said to me that summer does not start until the Cricket season starts. Well not for me, it's all about the tennis!
So when I got to see Venus and Serena Williams playing a doubles match in the 2012 Olympics at Wimbledon, then watching Nicholas Taylor (the American player who uses his feet to serve) in the Paralympics at Olympic Park, it was humbling and inspiring and allowed me to think I could at least give it a try.
So its more than a bit of an understatement if I said I was looking forward to giving this sport ago.
Once we had been put through our paces with a warm up game with some more experienced disabled players. The aim was to stay within the outside tennis court lines, and try not to get caught by the player that was trying to chase you down, a bit like Tag.
Then we got a break down of the rules from the coaches, such as the 'two-bounce rule', which means as a disabled player I can allow the ball to bounce twice but must hit the ball before a third bounce. So if I play Andy Murray (in my dreams) he has one bounce, I have two.
My disability has affected my body in a way that my strength is diagonal so the top of my body is stronger on the left side and on the bottom part of my body I am stronger on my right side. This means I have always had to work around doing things someone else in a wheelchair may not have to think about. Why do I tell you this? My serve! I can't use my right arm to serve like a pro.
I also learnt that you have to be stationary when serving and that the ball cannot bounce before you hit it across the net. What I devised was to balance the ball on the racket, throw it up in the air and before it lands hit it over the net, well that was the plan. So when I finally got it over the net and the opponent player hit it back I felt like a double Wimbledon champion!
To round off our lesson we played the game champion, this was where one set of players were champion and everyone else had to beat them to get the tile champion from them. It was the best of three. I don't know what it is but the competitiveness always comes out and the fact is I want to win… No, I need to win! Coach, Ross and myself did win, with no thanks to me. Woooohoooo!
If you are interested in getting into tennis, take a look at the Get Inspired tennis activity guide for details.
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