Wheelchair basketball has been around for a long time. There is wheelchair rugby, soccer and even water skiing for those with limited mobility.
Now the Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports organization wants the disabled and others in Green Valley to know more about wheelchair tennis, and how fun and life-changing it can be.
On Sunday, Feb. 16, SAAS, in partnership with the GVR Tennis Club, will host a Wheelchair Tennis Run & Roll event at the West Social Center from 1 to 3 p.m.
“We’re still looking for runners in the Green Valley area,” said Mia Hansen, executive director of SAAS, adding that 12 teams are now forming for the tournament and social event, which will include a post-game barbecue that the club is serving up.
“Our hope is that folks who may have a disability will check us out,” Hansen said, adding that the event is also something of a recruiting mission.
Prospective players could be folks who used to love to play tennis but may have a brain injury that affects their balance, or have had an amputation, she said.
Helping them get back into the game are tennis wheelchairs. They are lightweight, and instead of having two wheels, they feature five – two large ones that sit on each side, but are attached on an angle, allowing for more stability as players move around the court, plus three smaller wheels, two of which are attached in the front and one on the back to help keep the chair from tipping over. Special straps are used to keep players from falling out of the chair, some are made of a seatbelt-like material, and others similar to snowboard bindings.
The SAAS team is a diverse group of adults aged “21 to 60ish,” Hansen said of the folks who mostly took up the activity as part of their rehabilitation.
“Wheelchair tennis is an amazing sport that enables those recovering from a serious injury to socialize and connect with their family and friends. It also helps them rebuild their life after their injury. They don’t allow their injury to define them,” Hansen added.
Rules at the upcoming tourney are the same as stand-up tennis, except that wheelchair players are allowed two bounces of the ball. The court size is the same. The rackets are the same.
“The able-bodied person will be our run player and the individual in the wheelchair is the roll player," Hansen said. The player in the roll position plays both up front and back on the line. They play just like any regular doubles tournament.
“Truth be told, they are much better than we are,” said Frances Bouffard, president of the Green Valley Tennis Club of the wheelchair players, who regularly cruise through the courts at the Donna Liggins Recreation Center on the UA campus.