Bedfordshire’s No Barriers tennis programme at Riverside Tennis Club has been crowned a national winner at the prestigious LTA Tennis Awards.
Disability tennis manager Neil Frankel and the No Barrier programme scooped the LTA’s Disability Award after being recognised for his sustained innovation during lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was announced as the winner by Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister for Disabled People, at a live-streamed awards ceremony presented by Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and Frankel, 46, said: “We felt that there were a lot of people who were being missed off the radar in terms of sport and sport provision and we wanted to help by being at the forefront of changing that.
“We moved pretty quickly to online like the rest of the world and had charity groups that we work with set up Facebook groups meaning we were doing a number of sessions a week to support players with disabilities across the heavier lockdowns.
“People were just absolutely delighted that we were keen to continue in whatever way we can, it’s a really challenging time so to be able to connect online was a vital link for everyone, it created a sense of community, it was an important thing for us to do.
“It’s really humbling to win an award at the LTA awards, there’s a lot of coaches who work on the programme at the club, it’s a real testament to how quickly we reacted over lockdown, and it makes us want to do more.”
The LTA Tennis Awards are now in their sixth year and the scheme was one of 16 national winners. Regional winners Flitwick & Ampthill Tennis Club were national Club of the Year finalists.
The programme at Riverside forms part of the LTA’s national Open Court disability tennis programme and has helped a record number of disabled people enjoy the benefits of tennis.
David Rawlinson, LTA President, said: “The LTA Tennis Awards celebrate the achievements made by outstanding volunteers, coaches, officials, venues and players, who are all vital in helping us to grow the game.
“The past year has been challenging for everyone, but to see the tremendous positive contributions the nominees have made to the sport and to their communities has been tremendously uplifting.”
To find out more information about the LTA Tennis Awards or for information on how to play, coach, volunteer or officiate in tennis, head to www.lta.org.uk.