By Mary Smith, special to USTA.com
More than fifty athletes from four Southern states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia -- participated in the fourth Annual S.P.U.D. Tournament (Special Populations Unified Doubles) held in Belton, S.C. in late June. Athletes were paired with partners, and drafted onto six teams, according to their level of play.
The following levels were used:
- Level 2: Short court using foam balls
- Level 3: Green dot ball on 60 foot court
- Level 5: Full court, with traditional yellow balls.
S.P.U.D. was designed to introduce a "team" concept to the athletes, modeling the USTA League format. These athletes typically play in Special Olympics competitions, where individuals medal according to their ability. The goal of the Southern Adaptive Tennis Committee is to create "leagues of their own" throughout the states, especially those that already offer an adaptive tennis program. The format encourages social interaction and learning how to be part of a team.
Atlanta (Special "Pops" Tennis) has found success utilizing the S.P.U.D. format, offering a short season of USTA Adaptive Tennis League play. Athletes are drafted onto four teams according to their ability levels. Teams register using TennisLink.
The S.P.U.D. Tournament has grown each year. Belton, often referred to as the "tennis capital" of South Carolina, and its citizens make this a wonderful experience for the athletes and their families. Local volunteers help by serving lunches and being tennis partners; while a nearby church opens its doors for a pizza social for the athletes, coaches and families.
The Rex Maynard Sportsmanship Award was awarded to two athletes who emulate all the qualities of good sportsmanship. This award is aptly named in honor of Rex, who is a past President of the USTA Southern Section, Tournament Director for S.P.U.D., and a longtime resident of Belton who dedicates his life sharing the game of tennis!
Anyone interested in more information regarding Unified Doubles and league play or the S.P.U.D. Tournament can contact Jim Hamm
or Mary Smith.