Dan Maskell Tennis Trust
Serving Tennis to Disabled People

Rae Abbott case study

Rae Abbott is a 27 year old living in Devon. Having started playing tennis in Gloucester as a child, she stopped playing as a teenager when her condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, worsened. She has recently returned to the sport as a wheelchair player. Below Rae tells us her story:

I played standing tennis as a child, starting from Mini Red all the way up to the highest Raw group as a teenager. Tennis has always been my safe place and escape. As a teenager, my disabilities progressed and I didn’t have the stamina or tolerance for standing tennis anymore. It was gutting to lose something so important to me. It wasn’t until two years ago that I considered wheelchair tennis for myself. My dad had been playing for many years and I volunteered to practise with him one day. I tried his chair (which was far too big for me!) and I just loved it. It took me a little while to pick up the chair skills, especially with a racquet in hand too! It was so exciting to realise I could have tennis back in my life. After a few more practices together, of us taking it in turns to play in the chair, I joined my dad at the wheelchair group in Ivybridge – which we both still attend every week. 

Wheelchair tennis has completely changed and saved my life. My physical disability and my mental health had taken so much from me and to have some freedom and accomplishment back is incredible. And to be able to reconnect to a passion I had as a child and teen, but had to let go of, was really meaningful. I have made friends and found confidence in ways I’ve never experienced before.

In my last couple of years of tennis as a teenager, I took part in my centre’s youth coaching programme. I volunteered as an assistant coach in many age groups, from toddlers in the first Mini Red groups, to 11-12 year olds in Mini Orange, working alongside my own current and previous coaches. I absolutely loved doing this, especially the Mini Red groups. I ended up looking forward to these assistant coaching sessions even more than my own lessons! Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I could continue when I gave up tennis however, I can absolutely see myself pursuing tennis coaching for children’s groups at some point in my future. What an incredible opportunity it would be to coach children from a wheelchair – I would love to do this one day, even if it was just as an assistant coach. 

The grant from the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust gave me access to one-to-one coaching, which was something I couldn’t afford, due to paying for a regular private therapist. My disabilities don’t fit into classification groups for competing at a higher level unfortunately, but I love to compete at novice level when possible. My coaching sessions help me improve my skills in areas specific to me and in the format I learn best. I have learnt an awful lot from our group coaching, but the skills we focus on in my individual lessons are invaluable and have vastly improved my play. I have far more confidence in my ability when playing in tournaments now and I can’t wait to play in the upcoming events this year, to put even more of these skills into practice. 

As I said, playing wheelchair tennis has brought so much to my life, including confidence, and I don’t just mean in my tennis skills, but in all areas of my life. Feeling confident in my ability and proud of what I can achieve within tennis, adds so much value to my life overall. Believing you are good at something is an amazing feeling, especially for someone like me who has never had confidence in myself or believed I held any value.

I have made amazing friends in our weekly group and also met even more lovely people at tournaments and training events. I absolutely love being in an environment of people all with one passion in common. Whilst we have all come to play the sport for different reasons, we understand each other and I’ve never met such a kind and welcoming group of people than those I’ve met through wheelchair tennis. 

Major Online Auction Launched in Conjunction with eBay

From Thursday 24th August – Sunday 3rd September, DMTT is running an online auction on eBay to raise funds for our grant funding programme for people with disabilities who play tennis.