Jim Holt, Touch of Tennis
They arrive at the Gwynedd-Mercy College campus, youth and adults of all ages, with a variety of physical and intellectual disabilities: among them, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Fragile X Syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. But when they enter the courts for their Touch of Tennis Clinics each summer, they have one thing in common: they’re all tennis players.
The USTA presented its 2010 Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award to Touch of Tennis director Jim Holt in recognition for his twelve years of serving up tennis to this very special population. Success at many levels of performance is celebrated, and the reward is a physical fitness activity that results in elevated self-esteem, social interaction, improved coordination, and a whole lot of fun. And they get all this, a T-shirt and a video, absolutely free.
Jim began the program because, as a Special Ed teacher himself, he knew there was a lack of athletic activities available for those with disabilities. As the part-time tennis coach for the Gwynedd-Mercy College, he also knew he had access to a facility and students. With courts and potential volunteers, he felt he could provide a tennis solution to fulfill a long-time need and make a difference in the lives of many people.
Because the excitement is contagious, and because helping these athletes makes one feel good about oneself, there is never a shortage of volunteers of all ages. On any given Touch of Tennis evening, there may be over 100 people on the courts, 70+ athletes to 30+ volunteers. Jim and a few key instructors have recently undergone additional training in QuickStart methods and have received foam balls and smaller nets to enhance what they can offer the participants, especially the young and the novice players.
With Touch of Tennis, Jim Holt has successfully channeled his enthusiasm and love of tennis with a commitment to those with special needs, an award-winning combination.