Amalia Widdowson is adamant that her type 1 diabetes will not prevent her from becoming a professional tennis player. Having just won the LTA National Tour 9 & Under event in Southampton, the ball is most certainly in her court regarding her future plans.
Amalia started to play tennis aged two, and even though she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes one year later, she had no intention of letting the condition stop her playing.
Now aged seven, she is starting to take on more responsibility when managing her diabetes during tennis, and her father, Oliver, insists that “her diabetes does not get in the way of anything”.
Oliver is also Amalia’s coach, and while adapting to her diabetes management can be tricky, Amalia’s dedication means she is able to keep improving her tennis alongside her diabetes knowledge.
“Managing Amalia’s diabetes when playing tennis is an ongoing issue,” said Oliver. “As she gets better and plays longer matches she has more intensive training, and we have to keep changing basal and bolus dosages.
“I think that everything is trial and error with diabetes, as things change all the time, especially with a growing child. Amalia has started to take more responsibility, but it is difficult at her young age. She has to test her blood sugar at the change of ends and if she feels low or high during matches.”
It can be challenging for the father and daughter duo to measure Amalia’s blood glucose levels without derailing her focus during games. This is why preparation is essential. Oliver makes sure that Amalia is always equipped with sugary drinks before each game and that she is never in a position where she is running low on test strips.
If that’s not character-building enough, Oliver and Amalia also have to educate others on why she needs to take these breaks during matches.
“Some parents, referees and other players still do not know how serious type 1 diabetes is and sometimes think that we are time wasting!”
Amalia is inspired by professional tennis players such as Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, while athletes such as Steve Redgrave, who has type 2 diabetes, have shown her that diabetes does not stop you from becoming successful.
“Amalia is the hardest working and most focused tennis player I have trained and that’s her coach talking, not her father. With that attitude, you can achieve anything,” said Oliver.
“She would love to [turn professional], but we realise that there are so many thousands of players throughout the world competing for the same thing and it will be tough.
“She is also very academic and she will continue to work hard at school and on the tennis court. This will give her more options later on in life.”
Best of luck in your next competition, Amalia!
For more information on playing tennis or other sports with diabetes, visit our Diabetes and Sport section. You could also check out the Diabetes Forum, which has forum threads for children with diabetes and for parents of children with diabetes.