Tennis Initiative for children with Down Syndrome

12 August 2021

International Youth Day 2021

Today, on 12 August 2021 is International Youth Day (IYD), an awareness day introduced by the United Nations back in 2000 to draw attention to cultural, physical and legal constraints and issues related to the youth.

On this occasion, we are very proud of our colleague Mark Reith, Senior Commercial Manager from Bertling Aberdeen, and his initiative to offer children and persons with Down Syndrome free tennis lessons at Chrysalis Tennis Club. You can support Mark and his initiative with a donation, too:

In appreciation of this initiative, Chrysalis Tennis was given the Tennis Scotland Award for Disability Tennis for 2020 and shortlisted as a nominee in the National LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) Awards in the same category. Read his story and how this initiative came into being below:

"I’ve been a fully qualified LTA Tennis coach for 4 years now, working locally at weekends with David Lloyd Sports Centres & assisting the Head Coach at my Local Club in Banchory.

The whole idea started when I organised a LTA sponsored “Tennis for Kids” program in March 2019 for my Club & I was introduced to a young boy called Cameron who has Down Syndrome. His parents had made me aware prior to the start of the 6 week tennis course that he had a disability & they were naturally apprehensive when they called me before the first session asking if it was “ok” that he was included in the normal class; it struck me that this must happen a lot.

I informed his Mother that Cameron was more than welcome as the course was fully inclusive for all children including those with Down Syndrome. After our first session, I called Cameron’s parents later that week to see how he was after his first group lesson. She told me that he was absolutely fine, but once he was in the car ready to go home he was sad as he wanted to play more tennis. During that conversation, Tracy mentioned to me that there were not many opportunities for Children with Down Syndrome to exercise or be involved in a particular sport in the North East of Scotland & it’s that exact comment that compelled me to act.

I sought advice from DS Active in England, who were phenomenal with the level of information about Down Syndrome (which I knew nothing about) & had extended dialogue with both Scottish Disability Sport & Down Syndrome Scotland, both of whom are very supportive of the project to coach a Team of Children with Down Syndrome on a weekly basis.

Timings were discussed & because of the need to properly organise this; it was decided that we roll this initiative out to begin in July 2019 during Wimbledon Fortnight.

After discussing this with other friends/coaches in the Tennis community, I persuaded 4 other qualified coaches to commit some time “Free of Charge” to this project, so we had the staffing to make the initial 6 week program work.

I also wanted to ensure that these sessions were FREE for those who wanted to participate; so I started a crowdfunding page & within 2 weeks we had raised £1110.00 for equipment, shirts & court hire. 

In liaison with Disability Scotland & DS Aberdeen; we rolled out a 6 week course of one hr lessons in July at Westburn Tennis Centre to conclude with a Tournament/Festival BBQ for the Children & their Families on the 16th August at my local Club in Banchory; at that time we had 9 kids signed up for the project.

So timing is everything, if I hadn’t met with young Cameron I wouldn’t have been as driven to execute this. Once the 6 week course concluded, I met with Down Syndrome Scotland to discuss lessons learned and most importantly how we continue to deliver weekly weekend sessions for these children and we made the decision to continue at Westburn with DS Scotland paying for our court time on a Sunday.

Just before the pandemic closed everything for us, we were running 2 x 1 hour classes with 11 children under 12 and 7 in a Teens/Adult class, which I would like to think we can expand upon."

As a reward for our efforts, Chrysalis Tennis was given the Tennis Scotland Award for Disability Tennis for 2020 & shortlisted as a nominee in the National LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) Awards in the same category.


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