Bedford’s Riverside Tennis Club has been in the media spotlight recently, thanks to their disability sport provision during lockdown.
Within the space of a few days, head of disability tennis at the club, Neil Frankel, appeared on Radio 5 Live, Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC Look East and Three Counties Radio to talk about the club’s work with people with physical and learning disabilities throughout the pandemic.
Although face-to-face coaching had been stopped during the first and second lockdowns, government guidelines announced in December meant that people with disabilities could take part in organised sport activities.
13.9m people in the UK have a disability and are 50% more likely to be inactive. Those on a lower income are 50% again less likely to take part in sports.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) featured a case study on their website about a project at Riverside Tennis Club working with young adults aged 18 – 25 with disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health.
This led to a call from Nihal Arthanayake’s show on BBC Radio 5 Live to interview Neil live on air.
But Neil’s 15 minutes of fame certainly didn’t stop there. Just 20 minutes later, Radio 4’s flagship news show, the Today programme, called inviting Neil to appear the following morning.
“Being on Nihal’s show was very friendly and great fun,” said Neil. “Rob Bonnet on the Today programme was – unsurprisingly – not quite such an easy ride.”
Next stop was an interview with Andy Collins on BBC Three Counties Radio and finally, last week a film crew from BBC Look East visited the club to film some of the young people who have benefited from the sessions.
“She doesn’t understand what a pandemic means,” Philippa McDonald, whose daughter Alice takes part in the Riverside Tennis sessions, told BBC Look East.
“So it’s really nice for her to have a bit of normal life back really.”
Hubert, who is visually impaired, told BBC Look East what tennis meant to him. “It makes you feel so much better to be able to offload all your troubles into exercise… I think it does help.
“Coming here is a good opportunity to do that and a good opportunity to talk to someone you don’t get to see everyday as well as exercise and fresh air.”