Wheelchair tennis a growing option among adaptive sports athletes | SteamboatToday.com

Wheelchair tennis a growing option among adaptive sports athletes

Austin Colbert

Nolan Connell

— Tennis is already a difficult sport; playing it in a wheelchair is another story.

"Physically, it's really demanding, because it requires a lot of upper body strength. You break a sweat really fast," said Warren Luce, a board member with the Steamboat Tennis Association. "You are tired afterwards, so you start to appreciate how physical it is. It's a real athletic event."

Luce was one of the main organizers behind Thursday's Wheelworks Wheelchair Tennis Training session at The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The STA, Tennis Center and Colorado Wheelchair Tennis Foundation came together, along with Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, to organize the event.

"Last spring, a program for youth with disabilities went really well, and we'd like to partner with them to help to grow it," said Craig Kennedy, client services and outreach director for STARS. "Any wheelchair sport needs more recognition, needs more exposure. So to bring a program like this to a Steamboat community that already has this awesome facility and a lot of really passionate tennis players — as you can see by the turnout here — that it could be popular."

Bill Trubey, executive director of the Colorado Wheelchair Tennis Foundation, and Rich Berman, one of the leading wheelchair tennis instructors in the country, led two sessions Thursday in Steamboat. The first was for adult volunteers, coaches and staff, mostly able-bodied people, while the second was for high-performance youth, mostly local high school tennis players who may have never been in a wheelchair before.

"Our plan is to teach our kids, our juniors, how to play wheelchair tennis," Luce said. "We also believe able-bodied people should get out and play wheelchair tennis and understand the challenges. So we think it's good for everyone."

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Eight sport wheelchairs are available in Steamboat. Two were recent purchases of the STA; STARS owns four, and two more are owned by Steamboat Springs High School. The chairs, however, are passed around to be used by all for all sports, including tennis.

With additional chairs, which can easily cost more than $2,000 each, there is hope to grow wheelchair tennis and make it another viable option for those seeking adaptive sports.

"This is what helps grow the game, improve it, introduce it to new communities," Trubey said of Thursday's training session. "It really opens doors, and having a facility like this is a wonderful thing for the community."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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