INTERNATIONAL BLIND TENNIS PLAYERS CLASSIFICATIONS
Classification is found in all handisports (sports practiced by impaired persons), be it visual, physical or intellectual impairment. Classification is very important to ensure that firstly the player qualifies to be taking part in a handisport and secondly to ensure that competition is fair by grouping players in classes according to their degree of impairment.
In Blind Tennis, we use IBSA’s sports classes i.e. B1, B2 and B3. Classification should be carried out by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, not an optician. If the ophthalmologist or optometrist doing the classification for your players needs any help, please contact our Head of Medical Research and Development. He will advise your doctor what tests to use and how to carry out the tests. After the classification, if the results of the tests are sent to our Head of Medical Research and Development, he can tell you what class the player is.
Currently, a sports class is allocated on visual acuity and/or visual field, in the better eye and with best optical correction. Even if the player does not wear his/her correction to play, the classification procedure needs to be done with the best optical correction being worn.
B3 is the group of players with best vision. It corresponds to a Logmar visual acuity no better than 1.0 and no worse than 1.4 and/or visual fields restricted to less than 20 degrees radius or 40 degrees diameter.
B2 corresponds to a Logmar visual acuity no better than 1.5 and no worse than 2.6 and/or visual fields restricted to less than 5 degrees radius or 10 degrees diameter.
B1 is the group of players with worst vision. It corresponds to a Logmar visual acuity of worse than 2.6.
Those are the criteria that your ophthalmologist or optometrist should be using to classify your players.
Bear in mind that it is the visual acuity in the better eye which is taken to allocate the sports class. A person may be completely blind in one eye or even have a prosthetic eye, but if the other eye has better Logmar visual acuity than 1.0, the person is not eligible for a sports class.
However, many countries have a B4 or even B5 class. This is not in conformity with IBSA’s sports class system. The three IBSA sports classes B1 to B3 are standard and the same criteria apply all over the world. Since B4 and B5 sports classes are not officially defined, there is no world-wide standardization. Since Blind Tennis is a new sport, research is being conducted to define proper sports classes, specific to the sports. Hopefully, a new system of sports classes will emerge soon and will be adopted universally. Meanwhile, we have to go by IBSA’s established classes.
It’s essential to create an environment in which the Blind Tennis players can run freely without worry of falling or bumping into somebody or something (ex: bags, benches, etc).
The person in charge of classes should know where is the first aid kit, emergency exits and emergency telephones, in case an accident occurs with the players.
Responsible of the classes must ensure that players wear the proper equipment (shoes and sportswear).
It is recommended to be assigned a place (bench, for example) where players can place their sticks and bags.
During the game, volunteer or coach must advise the player in advance when they have danger of colliding with a fixed object located in the training place. For example: lamp post, net post, wall.
When a player is doing an exercise, the other players will be placed at a safe distance to avoid any impact.
Coaches and/or volunteers will be careful to collect balls frequently and/or prevent are in the area of game players. Take special care with B1 players.
GUIDING BLIND PEOPLE
There are different situations where we guide our players:
Walking or running: A volunteer will be placed next to the player, which will place his hand on the shoulder or hold on to the elbow of a volunteer. This form will be used mainly to perform any type of warm up (continuous running, etc.).
Crossing a door or a narrow place: When you have to go through a narrow space, such as a door, a volunteer will tell the player to be placed behind his back, moving the player in this direction.
Up and down the stairs: Before going up or down the stairs, before climbing the first step, we will tell the player the direction of it. (Up or down).
Sit on a chair: As we approach a chair, will head the player’s hand to the back of the chair and say if a chair is near a table.
Getting to a car: We will open the car door previously, trying not to hit the player with the door and place his hand on top of the door, indicating where the hole of that door is.
It is recommended to use “clock” reference to indicate the position of objects, both on the court and off (eg. restaurant). It can also be used to correct the service direction.
It is an invaluable collaboration work developed by volunteers next to the coaches in training players. Their contribution is vital for proper learning, which is why people who have this role will have to be prepared in a suitable way.
They must have knowledge from the simplest methods of getting around and accompany a blind person (guiding blind people) to methods of teaching techniques proposed by the coach.
They will form a team that will work in a coordinated manner that will be based on communication, synchronization, organization and an effective rhythm, always in an atmosphere of harmony and patient cooperation.
We know that volunteers for blind people are their eyes. Blind people trust them establishing a strong relationship that conveys security in their actions and movements, whether on the court, on the street, in the locker room, etc.
For this reason volunteers need to have a special character to convey to the players the feeling that they are working with friendly, nice, polite people and this will transform training into a pleasant exercising where everyone will train with maximum of their physical and mental abilities.
We recommend that all volunteers live the experience of attempting a workout with a mask, in order to increase empathy with the player and the need to verbalization describing in detail everything that happens during a training.