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Embracing Inclusivity with Adaptive Tennis at the Amputee Coalition National Conference

Aug 11, 2023 |

Reprinted with permission from Louis Bolling.
Courtesy of Amputee Coalition.

Orlando was filled with excitement as the Amputee Coalition’s National Conference, themed “Elevate Together Towards Tomorrow,” kicked off with a multitude of empowering events. Among them, the Adaptive Tennis Clinic, organized by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), shone as a beacon of inclusivity and camaraderie.

With the sun rising on the clinic mornings, anticipation hung in the air as volunteers, led by Tony StingleyDarian Banks and Louis Bolling of the USTA Community Outreach team, brimmed with energy.

“I’m grateful to be part of an organization that values inclusivity and empowers individuals through adaptive tennis. Witnessing the transformative power of sports in breaking down barriers and fostering camaraderie has been truly inspiring,” said Banks.

The hot and humid morning did little to dampen their spirits as they prepared to embrace inclusivity through the adaptive tennis engagement.

From novices to seasoned players, the clinic welcomed individuals of all tennis abilities, including those with limb loss and limb difference. The USTA’s unwavering commitment to breaking down barriers was evident as they provided expert coaching and all necessary equipment, ensuring everyone could participate in this thrilling sport.

Stingley, the USTA’s Senior Manager of Community Outreach, led with boundless enthusiasm, bringing his remarkable background in tennis and a passion for empowering communities to the forefront.

For the 4.1 million members of the limb loss and limb difference community, the Amputee Coalition’s national conference offered a unique experience, allowing them to interact with cutting-edge prosthesis and healthcare technologies, making informed decisions about their care and support.

However, it was the Adaptive Tennis Clinic that truly showcased the USTA’s dedication to fostering inclusivity in sports.

Courtesy of @amputeecoalition

Adaptive Standing Tennis, tailored to individuals with physical disabilities who play tennis standing, was introduced alongside wheelchair tennis, offering a level playing field for everyone to partake in the game they love.

“Tennis can be played by anybody regardless of abilities with minimal changes to the game. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live life through sport and recreation,” said Banks.

Stingley and his team showcased their knowledge of the USTA’s Adaptive Engagement Guide which provides coaches with valuable insights into coaching and teaching diverse populations. The Community Outreach team modified their approach based on individual needs, ensuring every participant they interacted with received personalized attention and support.

Beyond the conference, the USTA’s efforts to promote adaptive tennis extended across Florida during National Disability Pride Month, collaborating with the SportsAbility Alliance to organize an event in Tallahassee that drew a record number of participants ranging from children to adults. This display of camaraderie and shared joy emphasized the power of adaptive tennis in fostering an inclusive and supportive community.

Will Speed, the USTA Florida’s Adaptive Play Coordinator, passionately advocated for the cause, noting that tennis was “the most inclusive sport in the world.”

“The game can be played by anybody regardless of abilities with minimal changes to the game. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live life through sport and recreation,” said Speed.

Courtesy of @amputeecoalition

The Adaptive Tennis Clinic at the Amputee Coalition National Conference stood as a testament to the USTA’s commitment to engaging the amputee community through sports, where tennis became more than just a sport; it became a means to connect, empower, and uplift individuals, regardless of their physical abilities.

As the clinic concluded, the echoes of laughter and conversations lingered, reminding all present of the incredible impact adaptive tennis has made on their lives.

Cass Isidro, the president, and CEO of the Amputee Coalition, eloquently captured the essence of the clinic and conference, emphasizing the strength and resilience of the community as they united at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld.

“The conference is all about harnessing the strength, knowledge, and experience of our community under one roof to connect people living with limb loss and limb difference with leading minds, breakthrough technologies, health and wellness opportunities, and peers,” said Isidro.

In a world where diversity and inclusion have become paramount, the Adaptive Tennis Clinic at the Amputee Coalition National Conference serves as an inspiring example of how sports can bring people together, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a future where everyone can thrive.

The USTA’s unwavering commitment to creating an inclusive tennis community ensures that the sport’s courts will continue to welcome players of all backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, proving that with the right spirit, a tennis court can truly be a place where everyone finds their place in the sun.

The Amputee Coalition’s National Conference once again elevated the power of adaptive tennis, showing that with unity and empathy, the sport can empower individuals to embrace their full potential on and off the court.