The Abilities Tennis Association has created several programs following the existing adaptive tennis guidelines and rules of the court set by the International Tennis Federation for special needs tennis. These are the same guidelines currently accepted by Special Olympics. Our hope is that others will follow this precedence so that the athletes learn the same skills and follow the same rules of adaptive tennis wherever they choose to play and complete.
What is Adaptive Tennis?
Simply put, Adaptive Tennis is the game of tennis that has been modified to meet the needs of the player. Several forms of adaptive tennis exist today including QuickStart tennis for youth tennis players and Wheelchair Tennis for athletes in wheelchairs.
Abilities Tennis Association is working with the USTA, local Community Tennis Association, school systems, and Park and Recreation departments within the state of North Carolina to provide “Abilities Tennis” programs modified for persons with intellectual disabilities.
So what are the adaptation in Abilities Tennis programs?
Our programs are designed around three levels of play:
Individual Skills play takes place on a short court, either using QuickStart equipment or a shortened tennis court, and uses foam balls. The athlete performs skills as set by the coach (e.g. hit a forehand to the green dot on the other side of the net). The coach feeds the ball to the athlete. Points are given for successful skill completion.
Short-Court this level of play provides a transition for athletes who have been successful at the Individual Skills level but do not feel they are ready for a full court game. The boundaries of the tennis court are downsized allowing athletes to be more successful as they work on developing their foot work and learn tennis strategy. Unified Doubles is an excellent transition game allowing a partner to provide encouragement and team strategy to the athlete on a more individual basis. Traditional doubles partnering and singles play might follow successful Unified Doubles play.
Full-Court the most advanced level of play within our programs utilizing the full length of the tennis court and using regular tennis balls. Modifications are made to control the length of matches through no-ad scoring and options for short sets. Singles, Doubles and Unified Doubles are available.
PE Abilities Tennis
Tennis as a PE activity. One of our most successful program has been to bring Abilities Tennis into the school systems as a PE activity for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Abilities Tennis Association works directly with the Special Needs teachers and PE teachers to start the program in their school. We provide the necessary equipment and a specially trained tennis professional works with the staff and volunteers to get them started with setting up the equipment, coaching techniques for persons with special needs and teaching them some fun games and drills.
Having PE Abilities Tennis in the school system is helping to improve the well-being and the inclusiveness of students with intellectual disabilities. The next step is to provide these same opportunities in their communities through the availability of clinics at local clubs or through local Community Tennis Association. Abilities Tennis Association is there to assist these organizations in getting their clinics started, providing specialized training for tennis professionals, parent coaches, and volunteers. We also provide a clinic start-up guide and publicize the clinics on our website. All clinics are funded from grants and donations and are free to the athletes. By request, we provide a registration page on our website.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are no exception when it comes to having a competitive spirit within their DNA. The focus of learning skills to improve, the drive to compete against your peers, the joy of community and inclusiveness found at tournaments and events are just a few examples of traits within the human spirit. Abilities Tennis Association wants all athletes to be given an equal chance to participate in tennis tournaments throughout the year. Through partnerships with the United Tennis Association and local Community Tennis Association, we are able to increase the number of tournaments available in North Carolina for persons with intellectual disabilities. All tournaments are funded from grants and donations and are free to the athletes.
We are continuing our work to expand our programs throughout the entire state of North Carolina. If you interested in learning more or would like to bring one of these programs to your area, please contact Lou Welch, our Executive Director.