WHY WHEELCHAIR TENNIS?
"I started playing at 47 years old while I was rehabbing from a spinal cord injury after a bicycle accident at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. A wheelchair tennis player visited the hospital and did a clinic for the patients. I had been playing tennis for years as an able-bodied player, so it was a little easier for me, but it was nearly impossible with my daily wheelchair. After a year of borrowing a tennis chair, I got my own and I have been playing for 33 years. I credit tennis for keeping me healthy and enjoying life to the fullest."
HOW OFTEN DO YOU PLAY?
"I usually play about 4 times a week with either wheelchair or able-bodied players. I used to play wheelchair tournaments all over the South, sponsored by the USTA. I have met so many great guys and gals and I loved competition. I started out in the D division and worked my way up to the A division before receding back into the B division due to injuries and age. At 65 years old and retired from my job in Atlanta, I moved to Charlotte, where I play with both ASAP (Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program) and Wheel Serve Charlotte."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART?
"Now, my favorite part of tennis is helping new players become better and have fun doing it. I helped run a clinic in Atlanta where we had lots of young wheelchair players who had never played sports in their life. You could see their confidence grow each week until we had many competitive and happy kids playing a sport I love so much. In Charlotte, I've seen young men start playing tennis who had never played before, and now, they are better tennis players than me now or in the past. I still love to compete at 80 years old, but I play just for fun and to meet new friends."
WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR NEWCOMERS?
"I recommend wheelchair tennis for any person with a disability regardless of their injury level. We have players that are paraplegics, quadriplegics, MS, spina bifida, etc. who possibly thought they would never enjoy sports like able-bodied people do, but now are playing competitive tennis. You might not be the best player ever, but you can compete at what ever level you are capable of and gain new friends. When I used to coach kids in wheelchair tennis we required three things from them - attitude, effort and sportsmanship. I have played and enjoyed all sorts of wheelchair sports, but tennis is a sport that you can play your whole life."