Coach check-in: Using social media to stay connected

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Dickson Tennis owners David Dickson and Katherine Kelly share how they are using social media to engage with their tennis community during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Hobart, Tasmania, 6 May 2020 | Leigh Rogers

Social distancing rules mean Tasmanian coaches David Dickson and Katherine Kelly can no longer run traditional lessons – but that is not stopping them from staying connected with their tennis community.

The Dickson Tennis owners, who run a thriving coaching program at Sunshine Tennis Club in the Hobart suburb of Howrah, are now embracing social media to encourage their students to continue enjoying the sport.

“COVID-19 has highlighted how much more we can do to extend the tennis experience into the home,” Dickson says.

“If you love something, you don’t just love it for one hour on Tuesdays and one hour on Thursdays. The love of the game comes home with you. As coaches we now have the opportunity to ‘pack a snack’ for the ride and something else for home.”

The coaches have been posting videos on their Dickson Tennis Facebook page of their own backyard tennis activities and encouraging their followers to share their own too.

“COVID-19 isolation lets us explore all the different interpretations of a tennis experience without fixation on court dimensions, surfaces, net heights, ideal racquets, balls and conditions,” Dickson explains.

“It allows every family to have a tennis court, their ‘own version’ of a tennis court and an experience to explore.

“Everyone’s backyard creates a different version of our great sport if you can be adaptive and explore options and creativity.”

Their Facebook followers are demonstrating that creativity.

“We have seen kids rallying over kayak paddles, shadow swinging at the beach, using practice walls, mini nets, and even the odd sheep sneaking into a photo,” Dickson says.

“We have received drawings, find-a-words and motivating video messages too.”

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their coaching business, Dickson says it is important to stay positive. He encourages all to do the same.

“We now need to reframe this and appreciate all the small things,” he says.

“We have learnt to celebrate what we have, over what we wish we had. No, we don’t have a perfectly dimensioned tennis court – but we have a flat paved space, a broom net and chairs just the right height, a hedge that catches balls, and a neighbour we hadn’t met until the hedge dropped a catch and they threw our ball back to us a day or so later.”

Engaging with their tennis community through Facebook is also proving rewarding.

“Our Facebook page may previously have had its own dreams of showcasing matches and results, but we need to be accepting of our situation and understand that the perfect tennis Facebook page right now is a community space,” Dickson says.

“We are sharing our love of the game through play and families are doing the same. We are seeing siblings rallying together, when once may have once sat idle in the clubhouse waiting for their little brother or sister’s lesson to finish.

“We now realise that what we have built is a supportive community of friends who share a love of tennis. This doesn’t suddenly dissolve just because we can’t get onto traditional tennis courts.”

They encourage other coaches to use social media to stay connected with their own tennis communities too.

“What you thought was a business is actually a group of people who share a love for tennis,” Dickson says. “Our role is to shepherd them through the good times and the challenging times.”

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