Tennis girls serve up charity tournament to help beat Alzheimer’s

Ann Fields (front, left) and her fellow tennis players prepare to set off for the tournament from the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre on Bochum Parkway.
Ann Fields (front, left) and her fellow tennis players prepare to set off for the tournament from the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre on Bochum Parkway.
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A group of women who have played tennis together for more than 20 years have taken part in a tournament to raise cash for a cause very close to their hearts.

The women, mainly aged 60 to 80, meet once a week at Graves Tennis Centre.

Ann Fields at the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre on Bochum Parkway.

Ann Fields at the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre on Bochum Parkway.

While most of them have played together since the centre opened in 1991, over the past few years their weekly sessions have taken on a special meaning as many have had partners and family members diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

They have adopted The Alzheimer’s Society as their charity of choice and 12 of the group travelled to Nottinghamshire to take part in a special charity tournament.

The women managed to raise about £500 to support the work of the organisation.

Ann Fields, from Bradway, was one of those with a special reason to take part in the tournament.

Her husband Norman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago and recently had to move into a care home after Ann started suffering her own health problems.

The 74-year-old said it had been hard to see her husband, a former businessman who was able to fly planes, gradually deteriorating as the condition progressed.

“In the last three years, it has really gone downhill. You find it is so difficult to let go,” she said. “You don’t want to see them in a home and it affects your own health.”

She said that when Norman lived at home, a carer used to come on Wednesday mornings to look after him to coincide with her going to tennis. Ann said her weekly games had been invaluable in allowing her a brief break from her caring.

She said many of the other women she plays with have also been through similar experiences with their partners and family members.

“Nearly everybody at the tennis group have either a parent or a partner in this situation,” she said.

“Over the last few years we had a carer that came in and had three hours with Norman on a Wednesday morning. That was my only free time in the whole week to go and forget about everything to do with caring.

“You are focused on the sport and forget all the bad things. With the ladies, we all know people have got various problems and we are there to support each other.

“It means so much to know there are people caring for you.”

The group’s special tournament was organised by new member Faith Douglas.

As well as the tennis, the day involved a lunch and afternoon tea, a raffle and live music. Ann said it had been a brilliant event.

“It was absolutely wonderful, it was a brilliant day and the weather was fantastic,” she said.

She said with the expected rise in dementia cases in coming years, it is important to give as much support as possible to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Ann said: “Alzheimer’s not only affects the person afflicted but also those who become carers.

“You become isolated as conversation dries up. You often lose friends as they don’t know how to react or support you.

“Exhaustion is constant having to always ‘be on watch’ and this in turn can affect your own health.

“Normal activities like holidays, going out for a meal, the cinema and theatre are no longer an option and your world becomes a shrinking one; much like the person who is suffering from the disease.

“It can be a lonely and upsetting time and often goes on for years. The Alzheimer’s Society can be a lifeline for all those touched by this awful and debilitating disease.

“With an expected rise in cases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s over the next decade, this charity needs all the support we are able to give it.”

Faith said she had decided to help organise the event after hearing from the other ladies about their experiences with Alzheimer’s.

The group were taken by a minibus provided by Mercury Taxis to Normanton on Trent in Nottinghamshire to play in the tournament, while Newark firm Walker’s Hauliers also supported the event. Faith said she was thrilled the event had been a success and raised hundreds of pounds for the charity.

n The tennis sessions take place on Wednesdays from 9.30am to noon. Women of all abilities welcome. Call 0114 283 9900.