In April of 2006 Henry County Parks and Recreation (Henry County, Georgia) hired a new wheelchair sports coordinator, Harlon Matthews, to revitalize its struggling wheelchair sports program that had declined to zero participants. Since wheelchair tennis was the sport that had changed the life of the new coordinator it was integrated into the program in May and on June 9th the first class was held with a kickoff event that evening that included tennis instruction, food, an exhibition by a few advanced local wheelchair tennis players and ten newly recruited athletes, eleven youth and one adult. This class began one of many six-week sessions held during the summer and school year and was made possible with the award of a USTA Southern/Georgia grant that purchased equipment and promotional items to instruct and promote wheelchair tennis. The Henry County Wheelchair Sports program now had life, especially with the sounds of laughter from the kids ranging from Elementary to High School ages. The enthusiasm of this new life earned the program the 2006 USTA Georgia Team Tennis Event/Program of the year.
The only thing missing were more adults to join the one adult member and in 2007 two additional adults were recruited and in the fall a travel team was created, The Henry Havoc, with the first USTA tournament being played on Hilton Head Island, SC, The PTR/ROHO Championships. Since then the team has grown to seven members who compete in a minimum of six USTA tournaments across the USA and who are all USTA nationally ranked players. Team lessons and drills are held once weekly during the winter and twice weekly during the summer for 3 hours per lesson. Some team members also utilize private lessons that are offered to increase their tennis skills.
In addition to tennis lessons the program began hosting a USTA wheelchair tennis tournament in May of 2007, The Geranium Festival, to enhance the awareness of the program and to create additional tennis tournament competition not only for its existing members but also for tennis players around the USA and internationally. Since 2007 the number of tournament competitors has increased and has included players from the USA, Poland and Russia. The tournament has lived up to its tagline “Serving it up, Southern Style” by providing good competition, great food and true southern hospitality with friendly staff who are passionately committed to providing an incredible experience for everyone!
Annual USTA Grants assist the Henry County Wheelchair Sports program with maintaining current wheelchair tennis programs, like the addition of the Adaptive Sports Summer Camp in 2009 that included tennis, and to expand its programming with the addition of future ventures. We look forward, to pushing forward in HENRY COUNTY, GEORGIA!