National Rehabilitation Hospital’s Adapted Sports program started its wheelchair tennis program in 2003. With the help of former competitive wheelchair tennis player Brenda Gilmore, we have been able to develop a successful program. Through fundraising and support from USTA, we have been able to offer our program, free of charge to children and adults with physical disabilities in the Washington metropolitan area. We are a designated Paralympic Sport Club and Blaze Sports Club. Through the years, some of our participants have traveled over an hour to be a part of the program.
To play wheelchair tennis, having a specialized sports wheelchair is very important. We have been able to purchase these wheelchairs for our participants to use while in our program. Each of these wheelchairs can cost over $2,000. Our participants also have to travel to be able to compete. With the help of our grant from USTA we have been able to offer stipends to our participants, to offset these expenses.
For many of our children, our program was their first introduction to tennis. This year was the first time Valeria Reyes, age 13 and Alex Gomez, age 15 participated in wheelchair tennis tournaments. They joined our veteran tournament players Steve Bobadilla and Larry Toler. Everyone ended the summer with at least one trophy!
Practice sessions are held each week throughout the year at Watkins Park Tennis Bubble, headed by Brenda Gilmore and her staff. Each week the players engage in drills designed to increase their physical endurance and mobility, along with tennis technique, and strategy. Every session ends with match play situations including singles, doubles, and one up/one down.
This year an 8 year old, Skye Haghverdi joined us and has chosen to integrate into our regular able-bodied classes.
In addition to our program at Watkins Park, we also provide clinics at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. This is done in an effort to motivate newly injured individuals to engage in physical activity and to let them know that tennis is a great sport for them and their family members to play together.
Weekly clinics were provided in April and May for the Special Needs students of C.T. Reed Elementary School. Using QuickStart equipment was extremely useful, fun and productive in this endeavor.