Tampa Hosts 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, Tennis

August 14, 2013 01:04 PM
wheelchair-group-webHillsborough Community College hosted more than 500 wheelchair athletes competing in tennis (as an exhibition sport), archery, swimming, weightlifting, basketball, quad rugby and more when the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held July 13-18, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.
Co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America since 1985, it is the largest annual wheelchair sports competition of its kind in the world.
"Volunteering for this very special event was the ultimate volunteer experience," said Judy Foster, volunteer coordinator for the wheelchair tennis exhibition and clinic, and executive director of the Suncoast Tennis Foundation (STF). "This is truly the finest example of volunteers giving back to those who have served to protect us and make the world a better place for all."
Approximately 18 volunteers recruited by STF and HCTA (Hillsborough Community Tennis Association) from the local area gave of their time to make sure the wheelchair clinics and exhibition ran smoothly. The STF provided USTA 10 and Under Tennis equipment, and the local Advantage Yours Tennis store provided adult tennis racquets. Staff and volunteers from the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital provided overall assistance to carry out the theme of "Seize the Day in Tampa Bay!"
wheelchair-watching-webAlthough popular throughout the U.S. and around the world, wheelchair tennis is not an "official" sport of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. This year a special effort was made to include wheelchair tennis as an exhibition sport. Spearheaded by Robin Jones, USTA National Military Programs and Facilities consultant, the wheelchair tennis clinic proved to be a highlight of the Games.
"The wheelchair clinic was a huge success, and it was apparent by how much fun the participants had that tennis can be a great addition to the games," Jones said. "Over 30 percent of the players plan to continue the sport, and our team is now busy connecting them to wheelchair coaches and programs near where they call home."
The Wheelchair tennis clinic was led by Dan James, USTA national manager, wheelchair tennis, who hopes that wheelchair tennis will become a permanent part of the NVWG.
When asked about the impact of wheelchair tennis on tennis in the country, he said, "Veterans are an untapped market for wheelchair tennis as a whole. This is a great opportunity to grow the sport, but more importantly give veterans an athletic and social activity they did not have before. Wheelchair tennis is one of the few Paralympic sports that can integrate with its able-bodied counterpart. Veterans can play tennis with their children and friends for a lifetime."
James was joined by a number of local tennis pros in teaching the tennis clinic, including Chris Herman, a 15-year-old wheelchair player from Gulfport, Fla., ranked No. 1 in the 18-and-under juniors in the U.S.
The USTA provided USTA Military Outreach t-shirts, and the Suncoast Tennis Foundation distributed USTA Florida pens, wristbands and other items to all the wheelchair tennis players.
"As a result of the popularity of wheelchair tennis at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, plans are well underway to begin wheelchair tennis clinics at Hillsborough Community College and other tennis facilities in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties," Foster said.
For more information about USTA Military Outreach programs visit www.usta.com/military or www.facebook.com/ustamilitaryoutreach.