One of the most important things in my life is to always give back. I started playing wheelchair tennis in 1999 in Beaverton Oregon with the Northwest Wheelchair Tennis Association (NWTA). NWTA was holding its second consecutive wheelchair tennis clinic together with the United States Tennis Association (USTA). I will never forget the feeling I felt the first time I hit a ball over the net and past my coach. From that moment on I was hooked on wheelchair tennis.
Wheelchair tennis has taken me all around the world to compete while representing the USA. I love that part of tennis, but what I love even more, is running clinics and camps for kids and adults with disabilities. I have always felt that if I could help someone to have even half the feeling I had hitting my first ball, it could forever change their life as it did mine.
I have since come back to the NWTA for the last five years, and together, we have put on a one day clinic in Portland Oregon for kids with disabilities. The kids in our camp range in age from five years old to sixteen and all play in a wheelchair. We start our camp with introducing our coaches and NWTA board members. This year the NWTA had purchased wheelchairs for two of the young girls in the camp so we started with giving the girls their new tennis chairs. It was so special to see the girls eyes light up and the huge grins on their faces. What was equally as special to me was to see the pure enjoyment the NWTA members had when they gave the two girls their chairs. It was a very special moment.
We had about twelve kids this year at our camp. We start with doing some pushing around the tennis court to get warmed up. Once the kids are warmed up, we play their favorite game called "Sharks and Minnows". It is a version of tag. Then we get started on hitting tennis balls.
Every year we have had a local high school girls’ varsity tennis team volunteer to help at the camp. This is great because the girls can toss the balls to the kids while the coaches can move from court to court to help. We have the kids practice hitting forehands, backhands, and even volleys. We have about four hours of tennis drills for the kids, as well as a brief exhibition, where I and a couple of the NWTA members play to show them what wheelchair tennis looks like. About halfway through the camp, each kid is pulled to the side and I get to have my picture taken with each one. I love this part because I get to talk and high five each kid personally during this time.
We are continually making sure the kids are having fun while on the court. After our tennis session is over, we have a huge pizza party in the lobby of the tennis center. Everyone who comes – joins in and we pass out our pictures and a certificate of participation to each child. I have done this camp now for five years and I hope that I can continue to do it for another twenty-five.
The smiles on the kids and even the volunteers faces, reminds me of what I love most about this sport.
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0716/0264