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COLLEGE COACHING COURSE IS A NET GAIN FOR WHEELCHAIR TENNIS STAR WITH AN EYE ON THE FUTURE

WHEELCHAIR tennis star Andrew Penney is aiming to pass on his expertise to younger players after embarking on a sports coaching course.

The reigning LTA National Wheelchair Tennis Men’s Singles champion is studying for his BTEC coaching qualification at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College in Southampton after being inspired to learn more about it by his own coaches.

The 17-year-old said: “During my own tennis training I’ve always been very involved in working on myself as a player but I’ve also started taking on board points to help improve my knowledge on coaching. That was really what got me starting to become further interested in becoming a coach.”

The two-year coaching course is run by the college in partnership with Southampton FC’s Saints Federation. “I enjoy learning how to coach others as well as how to treat my body with greater respect in terms of diet, sleep and nutrition,” said Andrew. “I’m planning to take my Level 1 LTA tennis coaching qualification in the summer and hopefully my level 2 qualification after that.

“The college helps me balance my studies with attending competitions which is invaluable and helps me to strive for excellence in my sport.”

Currently 158th in the world on the International Tennis Federation rankings, the youngster from West Tisted, near Winchester, already has three men’s titles under his belt this year after a successful tournament at Bolton, where he also won two junior titles.

“I am really pleased with my performances, winning all but one of the matches rather comfortably. The men’s singles final was less comfortable though, it took four hours,” he said.

His success means he has a high enough world ranking to automatically qualify for ITF level 2 and 3 tournaments.

The youngster, who was left wheelchair-bound after complications from an ingrowing toenail operation in 2018, trains up to 15 hours a week depending on tournament commitments. “The college is really helping to support me both by allowing me the time off for competitions, as well as time when it is needed for me to train during lessons before a tournament,” he said.

“It has also supported me financially by giving me a sports bursary to help towards the costs of competing.”

Up next for Andrew is a junior tournament in Knokke in Belgium with the possibility of a men’s tournament in the US to come later in the spring.

He hopes the support of the college and his success on court will be an inspiration to young sportsmen and women, whatever their sport or their ability. “If you find a sport that you enjoy, or something that you feel you would like to try, there will almost certainly be a way to make that sport accessible to you, no matter your ability or disability,” he said.

“Even if you are hesitant about taking part, push yourself to do it and I am sure you will not regret it.”

Tutor Tom Barge said: “Andrew has been a delight to work with because he has a fantastic attitude to both his work and his tennis. His love for sport and in particular tennis has enabled him to deliver coaching sessions to his peers  and he is on course to achieve a Distinction* for his work this year.

“He has shown an incredible amount of commitment to be able juggle both his studies and tennis and shown amazing progress in both. We are really proud of him.”

Find out about coaching courses at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College at richardtaunton.ac.uk.