LGBTQ+ Tennis for All at Finsbury Park
September 15, 2022
The North London Lob-sters is a new LGBTQ+ inclusive tennis session run through the project Tennis for All over in Finsbury Park. The session aims to create a safe and welcoming space, both on and off court, for members of the LGBTQ+ community to meet, play, learn, and share their passion for the wonderful game of tennis.
Having started the LGBTQ+ inclusive session with a small group of 8 in April, it now is fully booked every week with 24 players each Thursday, made up of a social doubles group, and both an intermediate and beginners coaching session, as well as another social doubles session on Sunday afternoons. Shane McCullough (he/him), who runs the Tennis for All project leads the sessions, with the coaching team also including representation from the LGBTQ+ community with coach Doganalp Dulkadir (they/them) as an assistant. The group now has over 260 members on their MeetUp page, and a group chat of over 60 regular participants showing there is a huge demand for LGBTQ+ friendly tennis spaces.
The session is a part of the wider Tennis for All project as part of the charity The Access to Sports Project. Tennis for All looks to challenge perceptions around tennis being an exclusive sport, by making it accessible and approachable for underrepresented communities within the game. The project provides free or affordable sessions both on their courts in Finsbury Park, and by taking tennis into communities, with pop up sessions in more familiar contexts for some underrepresented groups, such as estates, community centres, parks, and schools. The project also runs targeted sessions, sometimes in partnership with other community groups and charities, to address specific barriers for certain groups in approaching tennis.
Testimonials from Participants
I came across LGBTQ+ tennis by chance one day when I was searching for coaching sessions on the Finsbury Park Tennis website. Initially I was sceptical as it was the only one of its kind on the website and I was a little bit nervous. So I persuaded a friend to come along, and we are glad to have signed up. Not only was the coaching effectively delivered by a brilliant coach but we also got to meet friendly people with diverse skills and backgrounds. It is truly a gem of a find after living through two years of social isolation.
I love the Access to Sports’ LGBTQ+ tennis sessions, they are a safe and inclusive space to play and train with others, as well as so much fun, which is exactly what I was looking for. The coaches are also very well organised and manage all their sessions on MeetUp - very happy to be now part of it!
I have been involved in LGBTQI+ tennis since 2018. Previously I struggled to find the confidence to take part in collaborative and team sports which I think goes back to homophobic bullying and exclusion I experienced at school 40 years ago. What I have found at the tennis group is a supportive environment where I don’t feel embarrassed to be myself. This feeds through into my game and my confidence which have both improved substantially.
Most recently I have found the Finsbury Park LGBTQI+ tennis group which has great facilities in my local park and is wonderfully welcoming and social. It’s great to know my physical and psychological health is improving and I have a way to make new, like-minded friends in my neighbourhood.
I am very grateful to have these opportunities and for the organisation behind this initiative in North London, Access to Sports.