OXFORD, Miss. - Members of the Ole Miss tennis teams along with members of the University community, including Chancellor Daniel Jones, participated in a wheelchair tennis exhibition and clinic at the Gillom Sports Center on Tuesday (Oct. 22).
The exhibition was sponsored by Student Disability Services and the Exercise Science department and featured members of the USA national wheelchair tennis team as well as some of their coaches.
"It was a very different tennis experience," said men's tennis senior Johan Backstrom. "It's very different in terms of how you have to move and how you have to time everything to be able to hit as good a shot as possible. It was also very interesting to hear about the different types of injuries, and depending how severe the injury is you are limited in how high a level you can play and it limits what you can or can't do. It was also interesting to learn about the wheelchair and the type of chair you have to use depending on the injury."
Geoff Norton, a member of the USTA Player Services group in the Southern section shared that wheel chair tennis is very popular globally and that there are even several colleges with wheelchair tennis teams. This exhibition and clinic came about from a wheelchair basketball event that was put on last spring on campus.
"This experience came from Jasmine Townsend and her husband, who did a wheelchair basketball event here last year. They reached out to us and we decided to do it," said Norton. "There is a local tennis community here that is very active and everyone came together and collaborated. Wheelchair tennis is enormous worldwide. The USA is a part of it, but it's grown into international competition with wheelchair draws at most of the major international tennis competitions."
"We have some players here to give the true player perspective. It's nice to be able to come out for the awareness. The athletes learn what it's like for an athlete in the chair because there is a difference in an everyday chair and a sport chair. We really wanted to bring about some education and awareness about the sport, especially when you get someone in the chair. There are some unique things about being in a chair but tennis is tennis," said Norton.
The women's tennis team also participated in the event and was able to get in chairs and experience tennis in a different way than they are used to everyday at practice or in competition.
"It was a lot of fun, but also a lot harder," said sophomore Allie Robbins. "It was different and made me think differently than when I regularly play. Coach (Mark Beyers) always talks about `cutting off the angle' and it really hit home today when I had to think about turning the chair and cutting off the angle. It was a good experience."
Men's coach Billy Chadwick thought the experience was great for the teams and the tennis community.
"This is tennis in a different way and it's really interesting learning the technique and the strategies that go into wheelchair tennis," said Chadwick. "It's fascinating to learn what the different injuries mean and how they have to adjust the chairs and how they play. It's really been a fantastic experience for myself and the players."
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