WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO – NEVER FORGET WE ALL MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLE
After an accident in 2011 left me paralysed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life, I spent the next few years working on rehabilitation and adjusting to my new life. Having always been very sporty I struggled to come to terms with not being able to play sport again.
In the summer of 2015, I signed up to a wheelchair tennis taster session after finally accepting that a wheelchair sport could give me the buzz I had felt from playing sport before my accident.
The coach that took the taster session made me feel at ease right away and his encouragement gave me the confidence to come along to sessions once a week. I quickly realised that this was something I could really enjoy so started playing twice a week and got funded by the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust to have my own tennis wheelchair. In the summer of 2016, I played in my first tournament and won the novice draw without dropping a game. With the support of my coach and the other players at Sutton I entered a few more national tournaments and had some great results and grew in confidence.
In September 2016 I stepped up my training and set my sights on getting an international ranking and competing on the ITF tour. My first tournament was in February 2017 and I reached the quarter-finals after winning my qualification match and beating a Russian player ranked 120 in the world in the first round. My goal for the year was to make the top 100 in the world and top 5 in Great Britain, and I achieved this in April 2017, just 2 days before my 30th birthday. I continued to compete throughout 2017 and had some mixed results. I played a few tournaments in Europe where I competed against a number of top 40 players who had a lot more experience than me. It was a great learning experience and made me realise that I wanted to be able to compete with them at this level.
My greatest achievements from 2017 were partnering with Lauren Jones (current world number 30 and GB number 3) at 2 tournaments and winning the doubles draw on both occasions. Playing with such a high-level player has been really inspiring and we have become good friends as well.
I received a small amount of funding in 2017 from a family friend’s company to help pay for my training and cost of tournaments, but unfortunately, this ran out towards the end of the year.
I currently have on-court training 4 days a week at Sutton Sports Village, as well as strength and conditioning sessions in their gym 3 times a week. The team there have been so supportive and I have been featured on the website and social media on a number of occasions. They have ensured that the cost of my training is affordable so that I can keep progressing.
In 2017 I was selected to be part of the Great Britain Development Squad, and I have been re-selected for 2018. Being part of the squad means that I work with the Great British coaches at the National Tennis Centre and they oversee my training and strength and conditioning programmes at Sutton and work closely with my coaches.
I am continuing to compete in 2018 and hope to be able to travel abroad for some of the ITF tournaments in Europe this summer.
The GLL Sport Foundation Award allows me to have access to gyms and swimming pools across the UK so that when I am travelling around the country I can keep in great physical condition to ensure I can perform to the best of my ability. As I am a full-time wheelchair user I often struggle with muscle tone and back pain – swimming is one of the few exercises that allows me to relieve this pain.
Furthermore, access to the GLL network of experts (physiotherapists, nutrition, psychology etc) allows me to explore other areas and develop myself as an elite athlete. These are currently areas that I have briefly looked into, but are difficult for me to pursue properly due to the costs involved.
I am proud to represent GLL after the support and encouragement that I have received from the staff and community and Sutton Sports Village. Any further support that can be provided to me would be greatly appreciated.
Wheelchair tennis has changed my life over the last 2 years. After my accident at age 23, everything that I thought I knew and all the plans I had disappeared in an instant. I never imagined that I would find something to motivate me as much as tennis has. For the first time in 7 years I have found somewhere that I feel I belong and I have met some incredible people along my journey. I am so excited to see where my journey will take me, and I am dedicated to putting in the hard work on and off the court in order to find out.
Yours in Sport