National Dwarf Games
USTA Texas was up for another adaptive tennis challenge. After experiencing great success setting up a couple of “short courts” at the State Games of Special Olympics so that athletes participating in other sports could give tennis a try, creating a similar venue for the National Dwarf Games was an easy assignment. The games were held at the same venue in Arlington, Texas, that had previously hosted Special Olympics. Except tennis had never been part of the sports curriculum for the Dwarf Athletic Association of America. With the availability of modified sized equipment and courts, both associations – Dwarf and USTA Texas – thought tennis could be a good fit for this population.
Athletes from age 4 to 35 and their families came out to experience tennis for the first time. The younger ones played on 36-ft. courts with foam and red balls using 15-, 17-, and 19-in. racquets. The older athletes tried 60-ft. courts with the orange balls, as well a green-dot balls on the 78-ft. courts, with 23-, 25- and 27-in. racquets. Amazingly, within twenty minutes, these novices were able to play points. The athletes were excited! Their parents were thrilled! When the allotted time of two hours was up, they were still playing, and the experiment had to be shut down so that the athletes could get to their scheduled competitions.
The Dwarf Athletic Association of America has already asked for more tennis exhibition opportunities for their 2013 World Games to be held at Michigan State University. Predictions are that it won’t be long before tennis becomes a scheduled competitive sport for this group because they had a ball – in fact, lots of different colors and sizes of balls – on their first time out in Texas.