How tennis saved my life: Andrea Weston
Written by Andrea Weston, volunteer for Cornwall Disability Tennis Network.
My name is Andrea Weston, I’m 47 years old and 12 years ago I became disabled through a tethered spinal cord which is quite a rare complication of Spina Bifida. This massive life event obviously hit me hard and it took me a while to come to terms with my new life.
11 years ago, I visited a mobility show in Exeter, and at the very back of the hall was a group of wheelchair tennis players giving a demonstration. Who inspired me to start playing tennis. Right there in that hall, that day not only changed my life, but saved my life.
After 7 years of playing tennis, my coach convinced me to start competing. I started off playing nationally, although it was nerve wrecking and tough physically, I absolutely loved it! I then went on to play international tournaments and got to 97th in the world and 7th in the UK. It made me feel alive! I was doing something I love and traveling parts of the world I NEVER EVER thought I would. Although I still got so nervous, the adrenalin rush of being on court was just something else!
Unfortunately, 18 months ago it all came to a sudden end when Social Services withdrew my funding. I had a PA that worked for me, who drove me to tournaments because I’m not physically able to drive to tournaments. This left me unable to continue to compete. Because of this my mental health took a massive dive. I felt I had lost my identity.
My tennis coach had also left to move to Sweden. This gave me the opportunity to volunteer more using my Level 2 LTA coaching qualification I stepped into his shoes over the summer until the permanent coach came back to Newquay in October.
I’ve known Josh for several years and was happy to keep the Disability Programme running until he returned. As it was over the summer, I had no school sessions to run and it as it was only 3 sessions a week, I felt I could take it on and not let anyone down. It gave me something to focus on and bring the amazing sport of tennis into other people’s lives.
I was really scared that once I had done the first session the children wouldn’t want to come so I was so chuffed when the numbers started to grow! I remember doing my first session, it was scary but I enjoyed it. It was good to give something back to the sport that had literally saved my life.
As the numbers of players have increased on a Saturday morning it’s becoming more difficult for us to deliver the excellent quality of sessions we are aiming for. We have players who played in the Special Olympics under the wing of Paul Roberts in 2017 and Josh is hoping to get even more players to the next games in Liverpool in 2021.
However, of course not all our children are at this level for number of reasons and need that extra support from us, so this is where the Zsig Hitting Station is amazing. We don’t want to turn any child or young person away from tennis but now we have the Zsig Hitting Station it is amazing for the younger children who are just starting off on their tennis journey and allow children in wheelchairs to join in with their peers too. I’m sure having the Zsig Hitting Station will make the children feel empowered and have a great sense of achievement.
Because the hitting station is so simple and easy to set up, it makes things much easier for Josh on the days he goes into schools on his own, and the same for me too, especially as I need that extra physical support with being in a wheelchair myself. Not only will it help the children, but it will help with my own posture and pain levels. So it’s win win! Ultimately, it is down to us to provide a great experience for the children, I’m sure their eyes will light up when they see the Zsig Hitting Station for the first time!
It’s very exciting to receive a Zsig Hitting Station from Davies Sports, we really appreciate their support. Having received one of their kit bags last year from The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust we know what excellent quality their items are.
About Cornwall Disability Tennis Network
Cornwall Disability Tennis Network (CDTN) was set up as a not-for-profit group approximately 4 years ago by tennis coach Paul Roberts. The network is for children and adults with physical and learning disabilities and adults with a mental health condition. Paul set up CDTN from Heron Tennis Centre in Newquay and started with just one wheelchair player (myself) and together we built up the sessions. He also visited 2 schools a month for children with additional needs. However, Paul left for a new life in Sweden in 2018, this is when Josh Burt became the new Network Co-ordinator and asked if I could help. Josh Burt has played at Heron Tennis Centre since he was 10 years old and is now 24 years old and an LTA level 3 coach and for the past 3 summers has been coaching out in
Greece So that’s where it’s grown from really. In just a few short months we have grown the sessions and are now visiting an extra 5 schools a month. I now volunteer with admin, fundraising and some of the actual sessions. If I may I would like to thank the people who have helped and believed in Josh and myself when we have done nothing like this before, of course Davies Sports but also:
- Heron Tennis Centre
- Jess Phillips
- Tom Howe at The Newquay Voice
- The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust
- The Tennis Foundation
- David Wright Accountants
- APT Health & Safety
- The Newquay Lions Clubs
If you would like to get in touch with Cornwall Disability Tennis Network, they are based at Heron Tennis in Newquay and Andrea or Josh can be contacted on 01637 877555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org