By Jeanie Peabody, special to USTA.com
I took an opportunity in February, along with Yasmine Osborn, the USTA Southern Section staff person for wheelchair tennis, to introduce collegiate wheelchair tennis to a group of Collegiate basketball players. The University of Alabama hosted seven of the top basketball teams in the country including men and women, at the tournament. They included the University of Texas - Arlington, University of Illinois, University of Edinboro, University of Missouri, University of Wisconsin- White Water, South West Minnesota University and the University of Alabama.
We set up a small net on a court adjacent to the basketball tournament court and put out the foam balls and short rackets. We had a table with Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis brochures and a continuously running video and a USTA Wheelchair Banner on the wall behind us. It took a little while before we got someone who was willing to hit some balls but once the UTA Team started hitting, we had a lot of players coming over and checking it out and more out of curiosity and a way to pass some time. I was very pleased that at least a few members from every team there, men and women, came over to play. We had many happy and positive remarks from those players who thought they would like to try the game.
A highlight for me was to watch Mackenzie Soldan play basketball. She is a great athlete and a wonderful team player. After her team played their match against Edinboro she came over with some of her fellow team mates to hit some balls. One of her teammates came up to me and said "do you know that she (Mackenzie) plays tennis too"? I said, yes I had heard that. (As many of you know, Mackenzie came back from the Para-pan American games a few weeks ago winning gold in singles and doubles with Emmy Kaiser).The gals said they might like to get a TEAM together for Alabama. I said we would help in anyway we can. I was very pleased with the exposure to collegiate wheelchair tennis the basketball players were able to take advantage of in their down time, talked about the opportunity to cross train in their off season, stay in shape, stay competitive and meet other athletes as well not just on the basketball court but on the tennis court as well. I look forward to the challenge of recruiting some new collegiate tennis players by gaining more exposure at national wheelchair basketball events, I hope you will do the same.