What is Sound Tennis?

The sport was invented in Japan and introduced to the UK in 2007. The rules largely follow the sport of tennis with a few adaptations to make it accessible for blind and partially sighted people. These primarily affect the ball, the number of bounces, the size of the court and a verbal procedure when serving.

Sound Tennis is also known as Blind Tennis or Visually Impaired (VI) Tennis, it is played by people of all ages, sight levels, abilities and fitness levels. For those wishing to compete, competitions are organised locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The sport has aspirations to become part of the paralympics.

Joining Us

We are always pleased to welcome new visually impaired members, at present we only run adult sessions but are very keen to be able to run sessions for younger people in the future.

Current players are aged from 20’s to 70’s and cover a range of different sight conditions and amounts of sight as well as ability, experience and fitness. We endeavour to make it an enjoyable session for everyone where you can learn the sport at your own pace, improve or maintain fitness, socialise and have a lot of fun.

Membership of the group is free.

We charge £5 for coached sessions and £3 for uncoached sessions, for the latter there are also monthly or annual rates available. First session will not be charged.

Tennis balls are provided and we will provide a racket for your first session(s). We will discuss what racket is best for you after this and assist you in obtaining one. We recommend wearing trainers or similar and light fitting clothes to the sessions, tennis halls can be cold in winter and very warm in summer so worth being prepared.

Rules of Sound Tennis

The following are the main adaptations from the general rules of tennis:

  • The Ball is softer and spongey with ball bearings in to allow it to be heard when it bounces.
  • Players are allowed extra bounces based on sight classifications:

B1     up to 3 Bounces

B2     up to 3 Bounces

B3     up to 2 Bounces

B4     1 Bounce/

Details of sight classifications and how to obtain them can be found below.

  • The court size is smaller than the standard court.
  • When Serving, server calls “ready” upon affirmative reply, they then say play and must serve within 5 seconds.

Click here for a summary of the rules

Current Sessions

Following the closure of Virgin Active in Nov 2021 we returned to Withdean and have the following sessions on Sundays generally twice a month:

B2-4    1.30pm to 3pm

B1        3pm to 4.30pm

Sessions are currently booked for: 24th April, 8th, 15th & 29th May, 5th & 12th June – visit our Facebook page for details.

We also have midweek outdoor sessions (Weather permitting) at the Pavilion & Avenue Tennis Club. At these sessions we use standard tennis balls and full court but with the additional bounces.

Standard balls are used particularly in winter for outdoor sessions due to sound balls not functioning well in damp, cold or windy conditions. If there is interest in summer we will seek to make opportunity to use these facilities with sound balls.

Sight Classifications

In order to allow players with a similar level of sight to compete sight classifications are used in sound tennis.

Details about sight classifications and how to obtain then can be found at: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/educationandresearch/classifications/.

Sight Classifications are based on acuity and field of vision. The acuity may be measured using Snellen or Logmar. below is a summary using Snellen.

B1

This category includes: having no light perception in either eye, light perception and ability to perceive some movement in front of the eye but inability to recognise shapes.

B2

Partially sighted B2 athletes will have limited vision in both eyes either in how far or how wide they can see.

This category includes being able to count fingers at 15 centimetres to a visual acuity of up to and including 2/60.

2/60 means somebody within this sight category would see the top letter of the vision chart at a distance of up to and including 2 metres. A normally sighted person would see that letter at a distance of 60 metres.

B2 also includes someone with a visual field of under 10 degrees even if their acuity is better than 2/60.

B3

B3 is the highest category used for most international & Paralympic sport and includes those with a level of vision better than 2/60 and up to and including 6/60.

It also includes those with a visual field of less than 40 degrees who may have acuity better than 6/60.

B4

Anyone with better vision than 6/60, and up to and including 6/24 would be within this sight category.

Competitions

Over the years we have been involved in organising and competing in a number of competitions and hope to do more in the future.

Locally we have entered or had our own mini events at Pavilion & Avenue and as part of the LTA Sussex open as well as joining colleagues at Eastbourne.

We regularly participate in the LTA regional competitions around the country with several of our players bringing back trophies.

We also organised 3 regional tournaments at Virgin Active with up to 40 players and 30 volunteers plus LTA officials. We were privileged to have Gill Andersson as our referee for these events and are very grateful to her for her support to Sound Tennis Sussex through the years. Gill had also organised earlier events with Metro Blind Sport which were held at Withdean.

In recent years Sound Tennis has expanded internationally and we were thrilled when STS Player Chris Baily won the men’s B3 at the inaugural event in Spain in 2017 and the open category in 2018.

Coaching & Volunteers

We are very grateful for the fabulous coaches and volunteers who have made such a valuable contribution to our activities. Our current coach is Adam Webb who works as a coach at Pavilion & Avenue Tennis Club and started with us in March 2021.

Anyone interested in volunteering please feel free to get in touch and we can discuss the role.

Contact Us

“At the start I wasn’t open to looking at charities like ESAB. I know it would have made a lot of difference but I wasn’t ready to be independent. I was introduced to ESAB when I had mobility training from Rachel and that was massive for me. The courses are also great and now I go to the Tuesday Club too where I socialise with like-minded people.  It’s great to just have fun!”

Dan Gumbrell, Bexhill Member

“ESAB have helped me with a volunteer who takes me swimming every week to keep active, and they also helped me with mobility. I’ve got more involved by going to the social groups and it’s been nice building friendships with people”

Keith Cleaver, Hove Member