SMASHING Mental Health through tennis
One in five of us will experience a mental illness in any year and even as we learn to live with Covid-19 we haven’t yet realised how many more of us will struggle. Research shows that people living with mental illness exhibit low levels of physical activity, contributing to poorer physical and mental health. It will come as no surprise then that exercise and social connection are proven to play a critical role in a person’s wellbeing.
Collective Leisure in partnership with Sydney Sports Management Group (SSMG) launched a 3 x 12 week pilot tennis mental well-being initiative, using tennis as a vehicle to help those in the community, irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity, suffering or suffered with poor mental illness. The program is supported by Tennis NSW and has received grant support from the Department of Sport through the ATP Cup Legacy Fund.
Both organisations want to help communities rebuild social capital and provide services for those that need most support, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
The pilot launched on Monday 22 March 2021 at Randwick City Councils, Heffron Park Tennis Centre. Participants benefited from a weekly 2-hour session that included tennis coaching and integrated the learnings from Collective Leisure’s wheel of well-being. Following each tennis session, the participants and coaches took time to socialise and connect with each other over healthy snacks and beverages. This social connection was extremely important and invaluable to support the building of positive relationships between the participants enabling the improvement in their wellbeing.
Everything was provided for free to the participants, jointly funded by the ATP Cup Legacy Fund, Collective Leisure and SSMG.
This pilot brings together the benefits of physical activity, connection, being in the outdoors and other practices from the Collective Leisure wheel of well-being, to support people recovering from mental illness.
Collective Leisure CEO, David Burns suggests that taking a systems approach and creating partnerships is how we enable well-being without boundaries and is at the heart of how Collective Leisure operate. Thanks to the ATP Cup Legacy Fund we’ve partnered with SSMG, Tennis NSW, and South Eastern Sydney Local Health District to design and deliver Smash Tennis – a mental well-being initiative.
Richard Price CEO, Sydney Sports Management Group said, “At SSMG we believe in order to deliver long term health and wellness impacts a partnership approach is required. SSMG is affiliated with Tennis NSW and is unlocking Local Government Authority community recreation assets to improve the health and wellness of the community. We provided access to courts and tennis coaches and Collective Leisure developed the program, delivered each session and measured the impact that the initiative has had on the participants mental well-being.
Participants were mainly referred by South Eastern Sydney Local Health District’s Keeping the Body in Mind program (KBIM) of Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service.
The pilot is measured through the industry leading monitoring and evaluation platform Views using the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL) and Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10).
The results and data captured provides a story of positive impact and improved well-being for the participants which include improved mental well-being, reduced social isolation and social engagement.
The success of the pilot is also evidence by the retention rate of the participants and the transition of participants to the weekly social tennis program held on Saturday’s. The integration of Smash participants into the mainstream tennis programming at Heffron Park provides strong evidence of the pilot’s success.
Vision for Expansion
Collective Leisure and SSMG say the goal is to transition the pilot into a 48-week ongoing program across multiple sites and collaborate with Tennis NSW to scale the program across the state.
The objective remains the same, to improve the well-being of persons suffering mental-health challenges and create a pathway program for them to engage in a safe and secure environment and transition to an ongoing weekly habit through social tennis participation.
The challenge now is to secure additional funding for coach training to support the integration of Collective Leisure’s wheel of well-being learnings and practices with traditional tennis coaching; as well as support for the running of the program. This funding will allow for the roll-out of the program once we have completed all findings from the remaining 2 x 12-week pilots we will administer in 2022.
Gavin Cowan | Regional Manager | Tennis NSW
The ATP Cup Legacy Fund has provided an avenue for our tennis community to access funding to expand or develop initiatives to grow participation, particularly for any groups facing barriers to entry. Tennis has provided an extremely valuable outlet for people to exercise and connect socially in a safe environment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programs such as the Smash Mental Health and Wellbeing Program delivered by SSMG and Collective Leisure couldn’t be more important in the current climate to assist anyone struggling with their mental health
Oscar Lederman, (KBIM), SESLHD | South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
The Smash Tennis program has made a significant impact on the lives of people living with mental illness. The weekly program provided a safe environment for participants to not only improve their tennis skills, but build their confidence, self-efficacy, promote physical activity and social connectedness. The facilitators demonstrated great commitment to those who attended, and were extremely accommodating to unique differences in personalities. It was truly amazing to see participants become so comfortable in the group environment and even share their own personal stories.
I have no doubt that the Smash Tennis program plays a significant role in mental health recovery.
Dom (Smash participant)
I found smash tennis to be a rewarding experience. I appreciated being able to catch-up with my fellow participants and coaches after sessions. I loved the enthusiasm and good-hearted nature of the coaches. Each week, we learnt lessons about tennis and other teachings that we could apply in our daily life. For e.g. the idea of applying pause, presence and proceed before serving and anything that is stressful. This is the main aspect of Smash tennis that benefited me.
For more information on both organisations visit Collective Leisure or SSMG websites: