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Top-ranked Junior with Tourette Syndrome, Family Announce Tennis Charity Tournament

January 25, 2011 11:18 PM
by Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

Three years ago, top-ranked tennis juniors the Plutt twins, Scott and Michael, posed with famous U.S. Davis Cup stars Bob and Mike Bryan at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. The two then-10-year-olds were the must-watch players in Florida junior tennis.

"When the boys were young, like 8, 9, 10, they were the hottest two players out there," says mom Jackie Plutt. "Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, Scott comes up with Tourette's. People were shocked, I was shocked."

More shocking perhaps is that Scott, now age 13, has maintained his position in the upper echelon of Florida juniors. The last three years have been a journey of understanding for the Plutt family and those surrounding them, including tennis friends, opponents and tournament officials. The Plutts hope to bring further attention to Tourette Syndrome (also known as Tourette's), and the truisms and falsehoods surrounding the disorder, when they host the Play Tennis for Tourette's event on Feb. 26, 2011, at the Bill Clark Tennis Academy in Cooper City, Fla.
 
 plutt----bryans
 The Plutt twins with the Bryan twins in 2008
 plutt----scott-and-michael-
 Scott and Michael Plutt in 2011
 
PLAY TENNIS FOR TOURETTE'S junior tournament
February 26, 2011
at the Bill Clark Tennis Academy
Cooper City, Fla.

For more info or to make a donation, contact:
Jackie and Julio Plutt
2656 Nelson Ct.
Weston, Fla., 33332
(954)736-7207 or email
jlp1630@gmail.com

The event will benefit the Florida chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association. Characterized by physical and vocal tics that wax and wane, the disorder has been a study in determination for Scott to keep playing junior tennis -- and winning. Ever missed a forehand because you're late with your swing or footwork? Imagine the difficulty if you're likewise dealing with random muscle twitches.

"He's twitching and playing -- how would you like to twitch and play tennis at the same time -- and still be able to win? Or not?" Jackie says. "The amount of energy he exerts is much more that the player he is playing. I don't even know how he does it all the time, it's amazing."

It's also been an educational process for USTA junior tournament officials, who upon hearing vocal outbursts are used to handing out warnings to players. In the case of Scott it has led officials to rethink rules and attitudes toward players with different challenges.

"It's the vocalizations that they have the hardest time understanding, that its a neurological disorder, and it's almost hard for people to believe that, but I think they are starting to get it," Jackie says. "Let's say he says [expletive, expletive] -- which he does -- but it's never during match play. It could be when he's picking up a ball, but it's never during the motion of match play. I don't know if it's the way or the design of the brain...the body can only do so much."

Like all children with Tourette's, Scott's vocalizations come and go. The family played a tournament in Tampa in January where Scott made little to no sounds, whereas the next week was more vocal. He also does better when he has a partner on the court in doubles.

Michael continues to maintain a Top 10 ranking in the Florida 14-and-under division, with Scott's ranking in the Top 30.

"It has effected him, he has lost matches due to this disorder," Jackie says. "He has obsessive-compulsive thinking, and the OCD kills him -- when he's thinking about something else and he's not focused on the match, he's going to lose. But he will never, ever, walk off the court for a medical anything. Because that's the kind of kid he is. I'll say 'Scott, c'mon, default, you're not up to it today,' and he'll start screaming at me, 'Leave me alone, I'm not going to default!' He has an incredible inner strength."

Jackie and her husband Julio have become advocates for children with Tourette's and other disorders, changing minds of tennis officials and other parents.

"USTA, at the beginning, they weren't so sure how to deal with it," Jackie says. "They've softened-up over the years because of my approach of how I deal with it. And my approach is only one thing -- to be positive. At the State Closed 12s, Scott's vocals were pretty loud, and overall the refs tried to understand...we sort of grew with the learning of what this disorder does to you, and USTA tennis had to grow also at tournaments...It took me a while to get the refs to understand that he cannot control saying [expletives]. So they sort of don't hear it anymore, they've made the choice to not hear it and let it go."

After three years of promoting the rights of tennis-playing children with disorders, Jackie found herself being sought out by other parents. At one national tournament, three parents made contact with her.

"One boy was from New York who had Tourette's, and there was a man who had severe Tourette's whose son played, you'd be surprised that there are people out there. A lot of people are scared to expose themselves," Jackie said. "There is a girl out there playing USTA tournaments who has Aspergers [syndrome, an autism-like disorder], I've met the mother."

While the twins idolize the Bryan brothers, they no longer play doubles together. Family members don't always get along on the court, and Michael admits, "Maybe we'll play more together in the future when we've matured a little more."

The Bryan brothers and their father Wayne have pledged to donate signed tennis gear for auction at the Play Tennis for Tourette's event. Scott says both he and his brother are looking forward to seeing the Bryans again, with a meeting set at the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open in March.

"What a great cause," said Wayne Bryan, who says they will also make a donation to the event through the Bryan Brothers Foundation. "I know Mike and Bob will be happy to see Michael and Scott again. We are happy to help in some small way with this wonderful event and cause."

Jackie says she has already received more than $5,000 in donations as the South Florida community has rallied around the cause.

"They've been really supportive," said Scott of his friends and community members. "This will raise money for Tourette's and people with Tourette's who can't afford doctors."
 
 

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