Coach Nick Heaps and Draycott & Long Eaton TTC are launching a drive to get more wheelchair players to take up table tennis.
Nick has been inspired by the inclusivity initiatives of Brighton TTC and by the journey taken by his brother Simon, who has transitioned from able-bodied to wheelchair table tennis after losing both his legs to diabetes.
Nick is launching a weekly session at Derbyshire club Draycott & Long Eaton, beginning on Thursday January 12, dedicated to wheelchair players.
The venue is wheelchair accessible and has appropriate facilities, including wheelchair-friendly tables.
Nick said he hopes the sessions will appeal to existing wheelchair players of any age, teenage athletes who may be looking for opportunities to switch sports, and beginners aged 10 to 15 who would like to try out table tennis as a potential sport.
He said: “I envisage it as being a small group, perhaps no more than 8 -10 players initially. However, my goal will be for some to enter Draycott’s own coaching pathway with opportunities for training and competition.”
Nick, who recently appeared on BBC Radio Derby to talk about the initiative, is also advertising through Wheelpower and the local Active Sports Partnerships, as well as aiming to make contact with NHS spinal injuries units in the area.
Nick, a Level 2 Lead Coach who has been involved in table tennis all his life as a player, coach and administrator, said: “I’d really love to see more clubs open their doors and make themselves accessible to all parts of the community, particularly to those with disability.
“You can play table tennis at a high level on two legs or two wheels. In this project, my biggest influences are Brighton Table Tennis Club through their community inclusivity initiatives, and my younger brother who, despite losing both his legs, still continues to play from a wheelchair.
“The new wheelchair group will allow me to link my membership at Draycott, one of the UK’s elite clubs and one that has a pedigree in player development, whilst providing table tennis opportunities for a disability group that can benefit in so many ways – whether from spinal injury rehabilitation, learning new skills within an organised club structure, or right through to the physical and mental rewards of playing competitive sport.”
Table Tennis England Clubs, Schools and League Manager, Claire Warner, said: ““It’s fantastic to hear about Nick and Draycott coming together to provide inclusive sessions that enable participation for all, with opportunities for players to progress into established coaching and competition pathways.
“Our Level the Table strategy outlines Table Tennis England’s commitment to equality and diversity, and this session has the potential to embody what the sport can achieve in this area. We wish Nick and the team all the very best for the session.”
For more information about the sessions, please click here to email Nick.