Matthew Chilvers is a great example of someone who is on the autistic spectrum and is not letting it hold them back.
Matthew plays tennis around the country in Lawn Tennis Association regional learning disability tournaments. This year alone he has won in the Northern region singles and doubles, won silver in singles and bronze in doubles in the Southern region, and won bronze in singles and gold in doubles in the Midlands region in his category.
Matthew said: “I get so much out of sport. I want others to have the same opportunities. Just because you have special needs does not mean you cannot play sports, coach and have fun.”
The rising star trains at Desford Lawn Tennis Club four days a week, as well using the gym for conditioning work and speed, agility and responsiveness work. Furthermore, he has played for Desford’s men’s second team this year, which is of real benefit to his tennis development.
As well as playing tennis, Matthew has passed his level one coaching award, and for the past six years has supported his own coach in coaching the junior club members every Saturday morning.
He ensures that junior members have lots of positive support and is a great advocate for learning disabilities.
Matt has made a massive difference in the club’s disability work. He and the club coach have visited local specialist schools, coaching pupils and running tournaments at the club for the schools.
He also coaches every Tuesday morning at the club, supporting different groups to play tennis. He coaches the over 50 group and the Inclusive Club, which supports people with special needs to access sport and the group for people affected by cancer.
The club has just won the Lawn Tennis Association national award for running the best disability programme of year and went to Wimbledon to collect the award! One of the defining factors noted by the judges was that Matt is so involved in running the programme and is such a positive role model.
Matt also supports the club coach at Loughborough Lawn Tennis Club who runs a disability awareness course for tennis coaches. Matt acts as a positive example and talks to the coaches about how best to coach people with a learning disability.
Having a coach with special needs at Desford has really helped to change the perceptions of people at the club and the wider community. Matt is a great role model and shows what can be achieved with hard work and a positive attitude.
Matt’s father, Graeme Chilvers, is as delighted as Matt. He said: “It’s amazing that Matt has been selected to be on the Leaders List. He does not feel he is doing anything special and just wants to make a difference. The Leaders’ List is a great idea and highlights the invaluable difference people with special needs make in society. To be recognised for the volunteering he does is very special.”
What his peers think
“Matt is an invaluable member of Desford Lawn Tennis Club. Matt is a role model for younger players and people with learning differences.” – Edward Randell, “Achieve with Us” day group.
“Matt is a big help; dedicated, friendly and an inspiration for others with autism. A great asset to the club.” – Jackie Lindley, Desford Lawn Tennis Club and a member of the Tuesday Tennis Group.
Since being nominated, Matt has been announced as the East Midlands BBC Sport Unsung Hero on East Midlands Today. He will now go forward to represent the East Midlands at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards at the Genting Arena in Birmingham on Sunday, 16 December. You can see his BBC interview here.