Weegie Whackers group shot

They know how to whack it!

How a LGBTQ+ tennis club is creating a welcoming environment for all

A tennis club in Glasgow is supporting the LGBTQ+ community to pick up a racket and get out onto the court.

The Weegie Whackers are an inclusive tennis club who offer social tennis sessions for all abilities. Formed during Pride Month in 2023 by Stephen Mitchell, the club has grown considerably over the last year with 65 regular members attending weekly sessions.

Research has shown that young LGBTQ+ people are less likely to be part of a sporting club than their straight and cisgender peers, with many feeling less safe or uncomfortable in joining a club. The Weegie Whackers aim to alleviate some of those worries and boundaries to encourage more people to play tennis.

Stephen said: “Personally, I have gained so much from playing tennis. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s provided me with many valuable life skills, and I wanted others to experience what I have gained from it.

“I have been along to other LGBTQ+ sport clubs in Glasgow and noticed that they’re a great way to meet other likeminded people, but there wasn’t anything similar within tennis.

"So, we launched a come and try session last June during Pride Month and had 20 participants come along. Gradually more and more people got wind of what we were doing, and we are now up to 65 members, which is amazing!”

Stephen coaches the sessions which take place on Tuesday nights at Newlands Park Community Tennis Centre, with the group affiliated with Newlands Park if members wish to pursue more competitive opportunities.

Stephen continued: “As the name suggests, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and you don’t need to have played tennis before to come along.

"Our whole ethos is about creating a fun environment where everyone feels comfortable and able to be their true selves. We are all about enhancing the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community in Glasgow.

“The sessions are kept as fun as possible and more geared up towards the social aspect rather than competitive matches. We do have a team entered in the West of Scotland summer league for those who wish to play more competitively though.”

The club is run entirely by volunteers with Stephen providing the coaching alongside three other members, Tylor Boone (Treasurer), John Heffernan (Club Secretary) and Carolina Sousa E Sá (Welfare & Safeguarding).

Huge efforts have been made by the club to try and keep costs to a minimum. Sessions are free to members who join Newlands Park Community Tennis Centre, with membership costing £39 for the year. Rackets can also be provided to those new to the sport.

“People have a perception that Tennis is expensive. The £39 membership works out at just over £3 a month. That’s under £1 per weekly session!” said Stephen.

It is not always about tennis, with the committee organising monthly team social events to keep the members engaged.

John Heffernan commented on the social side of the club, saying: "Identifying as LGBTQ+ can feel isolating. By developing a space for us all to come together around a sport is an ideal way to build self-esteem and connect to likeminded people. It's not just about tennis it's about becoming confident, prideful and fully ourselves in a world where that is often suppressed."

Due to the club’s growth and to ensure sustainability, it’s hoped that some of the more regular members will be trained up to help Stephen deliver the coaching.

There has also been support from Glasgow Life, who during the winter months were able to provide funding to access the indoor facilities at Glasgow Club Scotstoun. Glasgow Club Scotstoun is part of the Scotstoun Community Sport Hub (CSH) that brings sports clubs and community organisations together to improve the contribution sport and physical activity has within communities.

Grant Morrison, Sport Development Officer for Glasgow Life said: “Scotstoun CSH is focussed on supporting clubs to be more inclusive through reaching underrepresented groups. The Weegie Whackers are a great example of that and so we wanted to support and help them to continue their amazing work.”

1st Birthday

On Saturday 22 June, the club hosted their 1st birthday celebrations at Newlands Park Community Tennis Centre, with a come and try session followed by a picnic in the park. The day helped to celebrate how far the club has come and showcase the demand for such a club.

Welfare and safeguarding officer, Carolina Sousa E Sá commented on the event saying: "It was a really special day where we welcomed current members and new faces. With the support of LEAP Sports Festival Fortnight funding, we were able to offer a fun and accessible open session, as well as celebrate our 1st birthday. The success of this event just shows how far we've come as a club in only a year.”

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