A Competitor Forever
July 19, 2018
Tisha Knickerbocker of Syracuse, NY is a competitor deep down to her core. Known by most as Tish, she has always embraced the struggle and trials of her physical prowess that can only be tested through athletic competition. A natural athlete, sports is engrained in Tish’s DNA. It came as no surprise to her family and friends that Tish wished to pursue a career with the US Armed Forces. Never one to shy away from the ultimate challenge, she chose to serve in US Marine Corp., arguably one of the most intense and physically-demanding military training programs in the world.
While serving her country, Tish had an accident and broke her back, and life as she knew it would never be the same. Tish was sent to recover at one of the Marine’s Wounded Warrior Battalions, where she was first introduced to the world of adaptive sports and started playing and loving wheelchair basketball. ADVERTISEMENT Tish returned home to the Syracuse area following her recovery, and focused on what she wanted to do with her “new” life.
“I was searching for ways to stay active. So I began training service dogs, which helped a little,” said Tish. “I kept searching for more things to do around the Syracuse area, and I finally found a program called Move Along.”
Move Along, Inc., offers a variety of adapted sports activities for people who live with disabilities in Central New York. Serving veterans has become one of the organization’s most pronounced missions, and through the generosity of VA: Mission Re-Defined, Move Along teams up with local veteran service organizations to offer significant assistance to veterans seeking to participate in any of its programs, which include wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, canoeing and kayaking, cycling, horsemanship and most recently began offering wheelchair tennis.
“I participated in several of their sports program, but last fall, they started offering tennis,” said Tish. “I never really thought that I could play tennis in a chair, but I love sports and I wanted to give it a shot. I went through the program and bam! I love it.”
Tish enjoyed tennis so much that she applied and was accepted to attend the 7th Annual National Wounded Warrior Tennis Camp last May in San Diego, California, a program run by the San Diego District Tennis Association in collaboration with Naval Medical Center San Diego, VA Medical Center San Diego and Balboa Tennis Club. The camp serves wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans of all ages from across the country and focuses on helping participants improve their tennis skills through game-based clinics and instruction in an upbeat, fun-filled atmosphere. It has made an extraordinary positive impact in the lives of wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Specifically, tennis helps them work on eye-hand coordination, balance, ability to transfer weight, endurance, strength, and overall fitness. In addition to the physical benefits, tennis enables them to learn a new sport, promotes socialization, decreases stress and anxiety, and helps with re-integration into the community.
A few short weeks after Tish returned from tennis camp, Tish was packing up again -- this time heading to Colorado Springs. After training for four years, Tish was chosen to represent the Marine Corp in the 2018 US Department of Defense Warrior Games, a paralympic-style competition between the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command as well as the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, and the Canadian Armed Forces. Tish was a force to be reckoned with that week in June, competing in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, hand cycling and swimming. It was an amazing experience for Tish, who earned a gold medal in 50 Meter Breaststroke 5.0 event, shattering the women’s record in under a minute.
“I really did struggle with my injury and its limitations,” said Tish. “But I've had unbelievable opportunities to do things that I would've never been able to do. Of course, I would never want to get hurt again. I am grateful for the Semper Fi Fund, which has made it possible for me to explore and participate in all the adaptive sports.”
USTA Eastern supports many adaptive tennis programs throughout the section. Click here to get more information about adaptive tennis providers in your region.
Serve & Return, Inc. (Veterans)
NTC Wheelchair Program
Prospect Park Special ACES (Adaptive)
Cary Leeds Wheelchair Program
Advantage Tennis Program (High school kids with autism)
Backyard Sports Cares (Children with disabilities)
The Piece of the Puzzle (Children with autism)
Special Olympics - Hudson Valley Office
Jawonio (Tennis for adults and children with disabilities)
Challenger Tennis (Adaptive tennis for youth with disabilities)
Westside Challenger Tennis (Youth with disabilities)
ACEing Autism @ Reis Tennis Center (Children with autism in Ithaca)
ACEing Autism @ Drumlins Tennis Club (Children with autism in Syracuse)
Syracuse Wheelchair Tennis
Special Olympics @ Binghamton Tennis Center