Southeast Missouri State holds clinic for blind and visually impaired youth
Although the majority of college tennis programs had their fall seasons cancelled this year, that did not stop the women’s team at Southeast Missouri from giving back to the community.
SEMO worked with Southeast Kids in Action (SEKIA) to welcome youth ages 8-18 for a fun clinic at the Redhawk Tennis Complex. SEKIA is a recreational and developmental group for kids who are blind or visually impaired and reside in Southeast Missouri.
The USTA caught up with Redhawks head coach Mary Beth Gunn to learn more about this incredible clinic. For more photos and videos from the event, visit the Southeast Missouri athletics website.
Q: How did this idea materialize to work with SEKIA?
Gunn: “The SEKIA coordinator, Erin Brewer, contacted me about the possibility to do tennis lessons with the kids involved in their program. I thought it was a great idea and started researching what we needed to host the clinic.”
Q: What were the activities and events that took place during the clinic?
Gunn: “During the clinic, we used the jingle balls to help the students track the ball. We started with having the students hit the ball back to the player-coach. We also played some games too. Some of the kids were able to play live-ball, and others did a variation of point play. Afterward, we had refreshments with the kids and we got to know each other.”
Q: What were the biggest takeaways from both your players and SEKIA members?
Gunn: “I was really impressed with what the kids were able to do on the tennis court. It was also great getting to see our players interact with the kids, and they did a great job becoming coaches and being really positive and caring. The kids enjoyed getting to be outside and being active, and to get to do a different activity. The reason Erin Brewer reached out to me was because they hadn’t been able to do team sports because of COVID, and she wanted a low-risk athletic activity that they could do.”
Q: What other community service events has your program been a part of since you took over as head coach in 2015-16?
Gunn: “Our team loves to participate in community service events. It is one of our goals each semester to make our community a better place. It has been difficult to do as much community service as normal because of COVID. Last year we were able to run bingo night at a local nursing home in our town, but it is not possible this year to do it. One thing we were able to do this summer was to make exercise videos for the Boys and Girls Club so that while they were quarantining, they were learning athletic activities they can do at home. In late October, we decorated our cars for the ‘trunk or treat’ that is on our campus to pass out candy to the community kids.”
Q: How important is it for college tennis teams to give back and be involved in their communities, especially given the current state of college tennis?
Gunn: “We have made community service a priority with our program. College tennis teams have more value than just wins and championships. I told my players after we did the clinic, that this activity might be the most important thing they did this semester because it is an opportunity to help others.”