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Eight-year-old Starts on Wheelchair Tennis Path
In seven months, Noah Schepman has gone from hitting his first tennis balls to competing in the top-level of American wheelchair tennis.
His age: 8.
Well, Noah didn’t compete in the ITF Uniqlo Wheelchair Tennis Tour, the highest level of competition in the United States. He was in the event's 18 & Under bracket, going up against players who could be 10 years his senior. He wasn’t the victor in each of his three round-robin matches at the Level 1 tournament, but his coach thought he came through a winner. Matches were played at the Roberta Alison Baumgardner Tennis Facility on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Coach Carla Brangenberg of Smashing Aces Tennis said he has been all in since his first lesson in March.
“I want to play every day,” is what Brangenberg said her young student said shortly after she started working with him in Germantown, TN. “He started with a 30-minute lesson and then went right to a full hour.”
Brangenberg credits Taylor Wingate with helping her improve Noah's game. Wingate is a teaching pro at the Rock Hill (SC) Tennis Center and is a member of the USTA South Carolina Board of Directors. He was affiliated with the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina.
“I had never taught a wheelchair tennis player before,” the coach explained. “So, I contacted Taylor who taught me how to teach Noah. There was a whole lot to learn. It’s a whole different approach than I’m used to.”
USTA Southern Wheelchair Tennis Committee Chair Jennifer Edmonson and Vice Chair Evan Enquist, who also served as tournament director, said Noah was the youngest player they had ever seen in a high-level wheelchair tennis tournament.
Noah is setting his sights on competing in the Paraolympics after seeing some of the events on TV this summer. He is already signed up to play in the Montgomery (AL) Open and the Clocktower Classic Wheelchair Tennis Open in Rome, GA, later this year.
“This is Noah’s first competitive event,” said his mom, Lacey. “He started playing and has been at it four to five days a week. He loves it! It’s hard to explain how much tennis means to him now.”
Noah was born with spina bifida, which affects the spine. “He was operated on in utero and that stabilized him, but he ended up with club feet and a dislocated hip,” his mother said.
But, Lacey had a big smile when she talked about how tennis had transformed her husband, Jared, and their other son. “We are all playing now. We really love it and what tennis has done to Noah. It’s been wonderful!”
His father, Jared, noted, "On the last day of the tournament, Noah won the David Ford Sportsmanship Award for outstanding sportsmanship voted by his peers. He was beaming with delight."
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