Frankie Rohan

Frankie Rohan

Frankie Rohan

Headshot of Frankie

My name is Frankie. I am a visually impaired tennis player and also coach visually impaired tennis. I lost a lot of my sight in 2015 due to a stroke. I lost all of the sight in my right eye and a majority of it in my left. Having been fully sighted until that moment, I found everything really difficult to deal with, and sometimes still do. When it happened, I couldn’t see any way forward with regards to living a normal life again. I could no longer do the job I was in, I had to sell my house and felt very lost and scared of what the future may hold.  

In 2017, I attended an event run by the RNIB which had various stalls and representatives from various companies that provided services and equipment to help blind and partially sighted people. One of the groups that had a stall there was the North East Visually Impaired Tennis Club. Having played many sports before, my mum suggested we go over to learn more about what was involved. I was hesitant to go as I didn't think this was something I'd be interested in. I couldn’t imagine playing a sport when I was visually impaired. It was a terrible attitude to have, and looking back, I can't believe the thought ever entered my mind.

After some time and persuasion, I went to see what it was all about. One of the people working at the information stand persuaded me to give it a try. She created a space for me and handed me a racket as well as one of the sound balls that is used in visually impaired tennis. We hit the ball back and forth, and I couldn't believe I was able to do it with just the sound of the ball. This was a very emotional moment for me. I had no idea there were sports designed specifically for people who are blind or partially sighted. The only thing I had ever heard of was the Paralympics and even then, I thought it was just for people with physical disabilities as opposed to impairments.

I immediately joined the visually impaired tennis club and began attending sessions in my area. I fell in love with the sport and received a lot of encouragement and assistance from those who were already involved. I went on to get my coaching qualifications and began participating in a variety of disability sports events. I've travelled across the country not only playing tennis but also teaching clubs and instructing coaches how to adapt sessions and make tennis accessible to everyone. I deliver fun and engaging sessions for all ages, whether they are completely new to tennis or have been playing for a while. I love seeing children and young people enjoy the sessions and realise just how much they can achieve through sports. It's wonderful to think that I might be able to serve as a role model for someone who has gone through something similar to me. I couldn't have done it without the help, guidance and support I have received from other visually impaired people within the sport as well as organisations like British Blind Sport.

Sport and physical activity can have a massive effect on people's mental and physical health. Being around other people who are in a similar situation and who share my interests has been an important source of support for me since losing a lot of my vision. I would encourage anyone of any age to participate, whether in a group setting or at home. There are lots of opportunities available. Whatever level you decide to take your activity, it is definitely worth getting involved! It may seem scary at first, but once you've done it, I guarantee you'll love it!

After being part of the Great Britain Tennis squad as a player, I am now helping to coach the squad in preparation for the World Championships and other upcoming events. I have also recently accepted a position with British Blind Sport as their See Sport Differently Workforce Officer to help upskill coaches and volunteers and raise awareness of visually impaired sports throughout the sports sector. My life has changed so much in such a positive way over the last few years. Tennis has given me so many good friends and so many good times. I would advise everyone to give sports a try! You never know what opportunities it could lead to...