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Sometimes All It Takes Is An Invitation...

TOC Wheelchair Article Photo

By Jeanie Peabody

Posters hung? Yup - stuck on every flat surface on campus, in fact.
Posted on Facebook and Twitter? Heck, yes.
Held an Open house? Of course!
Reached out to students who played in high school? Absolutely!

So who might be missing from your Tennis On Campus team? Here are some hints: everyone has the opportunity to play. As a sport, tennis is accessible to everyone.

Give up?

Wheelchair players who go to college with you! Many have played tennis for their high schools, in leagues or recreational programs and already have USTA rankings. The problem is that you don't know about them, and they don't know about you. After all, they may not be playing at the college's varsity level, and they're probably unaware of the existence of Tennis On Campus and club play. Even if they are aware of it they might think it only applies to able-bodied players. Honestly, you might even not realize these players are right there on your campus. But now that you do, you'd like to reach out and welcome them into your club. So how do you do that?

Use your imagination. Like you, disabled students want the opportunity to have a full college experience, and in many case, that includes athletics. Wheelchair athletes may be found almost anywhere on campus. They may be playing wheelchair basketball or seated volleyball. They may be in the weight room, on the track or in the pool. As a matter of fact, they might be anywhere you'd find athletes - including in the stands watching the action.

When you encounter students in wheelchairs, talk up Tennis On Campus’ most important asset - the ability to be part of a team and all the associated fun, friendship and great competitive play enjoyed as a result. If the person is already involved in one, sport mention the great opportunities for cross-training that tennis can bring, and the fact that participation can mean simply playing other team members, without the rigors of a varsity program. If they're still hesitant ask them to watch a practice or a match, just to get a feel for the atmosphere of the program.

The Athletic Director, Athletic Trainers, Coaches or lifeguards -- a lot of people may be aware of wheelchair users who have athletic interests. If there's any type of a club, organization or student union for students with disabilities that might be a good place to start as well. Maybe your campus newsletter would be interested in helping you find athletes, by writing an article about your program and the fact that it's open to players from all walks of life -- even those who don't walk. Need some help writing your own article? Tennis On Campus can provide it -- see our Media Toolkit for ideas.

Sometimes people need a little help working on their confidence as college-level players or even getting started as players, period. The USTA has noted that the QuickStart Tennis format, with its softer balls and shorter courts, is a great way to help novice wheelchair athletes master the strokes and learn the rules. Even if your players are brand-new to the sport and they just stick with on-campus recreational play, you've brought one more player into the fold.

Tennis On Campus is committed to inclusivity. Our newsletter will be glad to feature collegiate wheelchair tennis players -- and maybe that person is someone on your campus! Maybe a player in a wheelchair is one of your most competitive teammates, or maybe he or she is simply someone who has proven to be a great role model to others. Either way, let us know about it – send an email to tennisoncampus@usta.com.

Have A Great Story To Share?
Do you or your club tennis team have a great story to share?  We'd love to hear about it - we're always looking for ways to promote you and your club tennis team in both local and national media outlets (i.e. magazines, newspapers, online sources, etc.).  Just fill out our Club Tennis Team Media Questionnaire and e-mail it to tennisoncampus@usta.com.  We'll do the rest!