Jimboomba tennis players to compete in autism friendly exhibition match

A PATHWAY has emerged for talented autistic tennis players who struggle to fit in at mainstream clubs.

TENNIS: Australia's first Autism friendly ii3 tennis team has been training at the Queensland Tennis Centre on a fortnightly basis.

TENNIS: Australia's first Autism friendly ii3 tennis team has been training at the Queensland Tennis Centre on a fortnightly basis.

Jimboomba's FuturePros Tennis Academy has worked with Tennis Queensland and Tennis Australia to form Australia's first ii3 tennis team on May 17.

The players have trained fortnightly at Tennyson's Queensland Tennis Centre under the guidance of coaches and Tennis Queensland officials searching for raw talent.

This weekend, 14 players will be split into two divisions and take part in an exhibition competition with 12 players sourced from the Future Pros Tennis Academy.

More experienced players will compete with a yellow ball while emerging players will use an orange ball.

The experienced players will be split into junior and senior teams, with two adults included in the exhibition.

FuturePros Tennis Academy coach AJ Thompson spearheaded the initiative and has nine years of experience coaching players with mild to severe disabilities

Ms Thompson told the Jimboomba Times that a number of skilled autistic players were missing out on opportunities because they are missing the specialist training they need.

"Autistic children are seen as badly behaved and people presume they are and don't realise what is going on," she said.

"I find coaching autistic kids to be a challenge because their brains are fully functioning but they present with behavioural challenges which doesn't make sense for some people when they look completely normal.

"They are the most rewarding people to coach and are very appreciative of their opportunities because of the barriers they face.

"If you give them a chance and earn their trust they will be your clients for life."

Two FuturePros Tennis Academy players Hayden Sell, 12 and Orlando Thompson, 11 have already caught the attention of a Tennis Australia representative who was impressed with their athleticism and ball striking.

Ms Thompson said her long term experience coaching players with disability had informed her approach to the job.

"You need to keep the program very structured so they know what is coming because they like routine and are anxious about changes," she said.

"They are black and white. What you say is what they do and you must always keep your promise."

Ms Thompson said she hoped to see a world first ii3 tennis team junior exhibition match played at the INAS Global Games held in Brisbane this year.

The INAS Global Games is the world's largest sporting event for athletes with an intellectual impairment and will run from October 12 to 19.

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