Tennis-based HAF scheme serves an ace in Ryde

How is a successful HAF scheme put together? Peter Cooper reports from Ryde on a partnership between a professional tennis coaching company and enthusiastic volunteers which has filled a gap in provision on the Isle of Wight

Jul 3 2023

children at tennis net
The immaculately mown grass of a lawn tennis and croquet club might not be your first thought of an ideal venue for hosting a programme for vulnerable children and young people. Visiting this excellent HAF provision has made us think again. 
The Isle of Wight traditionally has limited out of school childcare and only a few holiday play schemes. While this creates a challenge, it’s also an opportunity with a higher number of community-based organisations and a truly diverse programme. From football to farming, rock school to riding, our programme has some incredibly special opportunities for our young people.  
To boost local provision we have encouraged several mainland-based organisations to branch out to provide on the Island. Whilst this is an excellent way of increasing HAF capacity, it can however mean that the schemes lack localness and a connection to local services.  
Happily this is not the case with JG Tennis, a Hampshire-based tennis organisation which has branched out to the Isle of Wight to deliver HAF, partnering with Ryde Tennis Club to run a collaborative scheme, led by a professional tennis coach and a group of volunteers from the club.

Keen to shake off tennis’ elitist image and widen the reach of their activities, volunteers from the club meet every parent and welcome them into the clubhouse, which many, despite living almost next door, barely knew existed. Those with awareness of the club had never thought it would be a space where they would be made welcome. Changing perceptions works both ways – with one volunteer noting: “I simply didn’t know we had this number of children living with these challenges, it turns out we are surrounded locally by them.”  

The clubhouse provides a meeting place where indoor activities take place between tennis, croquet, games and fitness sessions. The army of volunteers use the club’s excellent catering facilities to create hot and wholesome meals. These volunteers – mostly retired professional people with the time and energy to make the most of their local connections – have been crucial to the programme’s success. It was the volunteers who approached local schools to ensure that the scheme was promoted. It was the volunteers who approached island-based businesses to donate or discount local produce for meals and healthy eating activities.  
The Easter 2023 scheme attracted a diverse mix of children including a boy who had recently arrived from Ukraine. His English was extremely limited but was enough to describe the trauma of his journey to safety. The common language was tennis of which he was excellent, and no doubt finally being able to smash a ball once again was a great release for him.

Other children simply loved the food and intergenerational conversations with the volunteers, learning a new sport and finding new friends on their doorstep.

For more information on this and other Isle of Wight HAF schemes, visit the Family Information Hub.