Home » Changing lives, one yellow ball at a time
Anglesey Conwy Denbighshire Flintshire Gwynedd Health Health Health Health Health Health Health National News North Wales Wrexham

Changing lives, one yellow ball at a time

It’s well-known that exercise can have long-term benefits on both physical and mental well-being, and one North Wales tennis coach has been capitalising on this for the good of his local community — by taking tennis into care homes. 

Mike Herd, a tennis coach from Mold, has taken his tennis equipment and his coaching knowledge into three care homes across North Wales this year — ‘serving’ coaching sessions to over 28 residents, one of which is 107 years old! 

Whilst these sessions don’t take place on a traditional court, residents at the care homes are able to interact with much of the same key equipment as standard tennis — alongside specially adapted equipment, for people with mobility issues.

Tailored to each participants individual needs and abilities, the sessions are funded through the LTA — Tennis for Britain and Tennis Wales’ Open Court Programme — which opens tennis up to disabled people of all ages, abilities, and impairments. 

The Programme forms an important part of Tennis Wales’ Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Plan which was launched in 2022 and Mike Herd couldn’t be better placed to help drive it forward.

Having been a sporty person since a young age, Mike has always enjoyed a game of tennis. However, following a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in his spine at just 25 years old, his hopes of playing on the amateur and competitive court came to a halt.

Mike said: “Discovering that I could no longer play tennis competitively was difficult — it impacted my mental health enormously. That’s why I stepped into Primary School teaching for a short while, before spotting a vacant tennis coaching position in Cheshire. I took the job and haven’t looked back!”

Whilst he didn’t retire his tennis shoes completely, Mike’s injuries progressed — leading him to coach tennis from a wheelchair for 18 months.

Mike continued: “This led to a turning point in my life — where I realised the impact of not being able to take part in physical activity. I decided that I wanted to help others in a similar position — and so, the concept of care home tennis coaching was born.”

Taking steps to increase inclusivity, the sessions delivered at the care homes often feature adaptive equipment from LuSu Sports, in addition to equipment that mirrors more traditional ideas of tennis including balloons, different size tennis balls and smaller rackets. 

Lynne Hulme, from Marleyfield House care home in Buckley, said: “What a success our armchair tennis session have been! The residents are enjoying and really do benefit from Mike coming in. Moving their bodies has made such a difference and getting together as a group with other residents — while working together as a team — is great for their wellbeing.”

Barb, resident at Marleyfield care home said: “I like being active — it’s so much better than just sitting in a chair and watching other people do things. Usually, the people here just want to watch TV so it was great to see everyone being so enthusiastic about this. It was nice to feel able again. Mike presented his subject really well.”

Barb’s fellow resident, Jane also said: “What I like about Mike is that he doesn’t rush you or leave anybody out. It is good to be stretching and moving our bodies.”

Stuart Baker, Participation Development Partner at Tennis Wales said: “Year on year, our goal is to open tennis up to more audiences and prove that the sport is truly for everyone. That’s why we’re so supportive of Mike’s care home sessions in Flintshire. We commend Mike for his hard work and look forward to witnessing the continued impact that he’s sure to make across north Wales.

“The care home sessions form part of our Open Court Programme — a disability coaching and training initiative — which offers everything from disability and wheelchair tennis to visually impaired tennis, deaf tennis and tennis for mental health or other conditions like Dementia.

“Since 2021, the programme has expanded from nine venues to more than 30 today. There have been more than 500 participants on the programme this year to date, and we’re on track for our 1,000 player target next year.”

For more information on other Open Court Programmes operating in Wales, visit https://www.lta.org.uk/about-us/in-your-area/tennis-wales/disability-tennis/open-court-programme/. To find out more about Mike’s sessions across North Wales, visit: mikeherdtennis.co.uk/