Mark Bullock

Inclusive coach Mark Bullock says the new skills he learned from delivering Panathlon’s Virtual Programme played a big part in him winning a national coaching award.

Mark was named Development Coach of the Year by the Lawn Tennis Association in June and presented with his award by Judy Murray. He also won the regional LTA coaching award.

Many will know Mark from his work as a Panathlon Events Manager, especially as the ‘face’ of many of our at-home activity instruction videos.

Perhaps his most noteworthy work with us recently has been delivering sport sessions for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties at the Children’s Trust.

“I got the LTA award for showing innovation in adapting and coaching online through the pandemic and it was Panathlon that helped me realise what was possible in that regard,” says Mark.

“The work I did for Panathlon with the Children’s Trust really stretched my beliefs in what could be done. I was sat in my lounge and I was beamed into four classrooms simultaneously. We managed to get children with the most profound disabilities fully engaged. I thought ‘wow!’ I learned a hell of a lot in terms of what was possible in spite of multiple barriers caused by the pandemic.”

Mark transferred that learning into his tennis coaching work with Metro Blind Sport and coaching wheelchair tennis online. “I started with one-on-one Zoom sessions and by the end of lockdown we were doing groups with multiple impairments online. If you’d suggested that to me 18 months ago I wouldn’t have done it.”

As well as his work for Panathlon, Mark is LTA Disability Lead for Middlesex, an LTA tutor and mentor on inclusion and works for Rackets Cubed, Metro Blind Sport, Wheel Power and is an inclusion advocate for the University of Nottingham.

“Having worked in this disability and inclusion space for nearly 30 years, I know how adaptable we have to be every day in our coaching to meet participants’ needs,” says Mark. “The pandemic has meant we need to be adaptable in a slightly different fashion.

“What Panathlon has done during Covid-19 has been incredible, to keep going, innovating and ensuring that they still have an impact by doing things differently.

“I’m proud to have been part of that journey. I’d never heard of Zoom 18 months ago but we’ve learned by doing – just taking that first step. I’m still surprised more coaches haven’t done more online. We’ve just given it a go and the results have been amazing.”

Panathlon’s Chief Operations Officer, Tony Waymouth, commented: “We congratulate Mark on his award from the LTA. Through the pandemic he has been a valuable sounding board to discuss ideas and scenarios that we can try out to benefit young people.

“His being involved with other organisations is useful in discussing things that work (and things that haven’t) in order to formulate Panathlon’s way forward.

“Mark’s knowledge of visual impairment provision has been vital in us providing teachers with VI adaptations and his time spent in the Children’s Trust has meant that we have had a really good transfer of knowledge back and forth.”