2023 USTA Annual Meeting Awards: Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis of Highland Park honored with Adaptive Tennis Award
Eight advocates for the sport of tennis at the grassroots and local levels were honored with seven awards at the 2023 USTA Annual Meeting and Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.
WATCH: Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis of Highland Park honored with Adaptive Tennis Award
Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis of Highland Park of Pittsburgh, Penn., was awarded the USTA National Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award at the 2023 USTA Annual Meeting and Conference. The USTA annually bestows this recognition upon a program that has demonstrated continued excellence, dedication and service in tennis for an adaptive tennis community.
Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis of Highland Park was started in 2019 by Highland Park Tennis Club president Dana Costa, whose daughter has a visual impairment. Her daughter was told she would never play sports such as tennis, and Costa set out to make sure that she was allotted those opportunities.
The BVI program has grown in a multitude of ways since its inception three years ago, most notably in its number of participants, but more importantly, in awareness for blind tennis. One of the most amazing things about the program is that it is run solely by volunteers who have dedicated their time to give back to their community.
“For many blind or visually impaired individuals, limitations are handed to them before they can even make that determination for one's self,” Costa said. “Our program has shown the BVI community that possibilities are endless.”
“The things that are being done by Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis of Highland Park are truly amazing as they continue to be the leaders in the visually-impaired space. It takes a whole community to make these types of programs a success and that’s just what has happened in Highland Park,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “I also have to commend Dana on her vision to start this amazing program which allows even more individuals to pick up a racquet and enjoy the sport of a lifetime. This program’s success is a testament to her hard work and dedication.”
Costa went on to establish the United States Blind Tennis Association (USBTA) in 2022, and the organization is leading the way in bringing blind and visually impaired tennis to the mainstream. The USBTA works closely with the USTA both nationally and locally to bring tennis opportunities to a community that has been traditionally underrepresented, in an effort to help the U.S. join the 30 countries where blind tennis is played at a tournament level. In a short time, the USBTA has already conducted trainings and introduced programming in numerous states, and continues to develop the sport through its research and working to establish new blind tennis clubs across the country. In addition to the Pittsburgh club, there are blind tennis clubs in Cincinnati, Ohio; New York City; North Carolina; and McAllen, Texas.
The rules of blind tennis vary slightly in that the game is played either on a badminton court, or within the service courts of a tennis court. A specially-adapted sponge ball, that has a noise-making device inside it, is used. Smaller-sized tennis racquets are also used. The ball may bounce up to three times before a player must hit it, and twice before a partially-sighted player must hit it.