NEC Wheelchair Masters Kids' Day  Promotes Inclusion, Fun

Erin Maher | November 30, 2018

The USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., was buzzing with excitement, play and fun on Thursday, Nov. 29th, when 200 local elementary and high school students descended upon the campus for the 2018 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters Kids’ Day. 


The event, sponsored by the USTA, ran concurrently to the 2018 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, the marquee event of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, which features the Top 8 men and women along with the Top 6 quads for the ITF year-end wheelchair singles championship. 


There were plenty of activities throughout the day. Students from Moss Park Elementary School and Lake Nona High School, both in Orlando, stepped onto the USTA National Campus and immediately jumped on the tennis court. Children of all ages and levels of abilities were treated to both regular and adapted tennis clinics run by USTA staff, enabling everyone to get in the game. 


“I never played tennis before,” said 8-year-old elementary schooler Tiffany, from Orlando. “It was fun. My friends and I ran a lot.” 


While kids played, there was also ample opportunities for learning, especially about diversity and inclusion. Three service dogs from Canine Companions were in attendance, as they and their handlers provided an informational session for students about service dogs. Students were also able to talk to Team USA wheelchair tennis members Chris Herman and MacKenzie Soldan about wheelchair tennis and being a wheelchair athlete. Herman and Soldan also gave the students a first-hand look at wheelchair tennis, demonstrating match play. 



“My students really loved coming here,” said Ismary Guzman Cano, a special education teacher for intellectual disability at Lake Nona High School. “They felt welcomed at this experience. When we found out that they would be playing games for special needs, we knew we had to be here.” 


After the morning festivities, the students were able to take in an afternoon of world-class tennis, watching the greatest wheelchair tennis players in the world play in the second round of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. 


“It was an amazing sight to see over 200 kids being engaged on the USTA National Campus, not only playing tennis but being able to learn about the reason we use service dogs and the benefits of being physically fit," said Joanne Wallen, director of adult and wheelchair tennis for the USTA. "The best part of the event was showing kids that people that are in wheelchairs can compete at the same level as someone that is standing up to play tennis. A fun and educational experience for all.”





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