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Local HS Teams Create Memorable Night for Special Needs Students

Posted 4/16/13

Local High School Tennis Teams Create Memorable Night for Special Needs Students

Wake Forest-Rolesville High School and the Adaptive Tennis Association of North Carolina teamed up on Tuesday, April 9 for an unforgettable afternoon of tennis and camaraderie.

ATANC spent the last four weeks working with students at WFRHS to get them familair with tennis and working with special need athletes. They also provided equipment and tennis training to the school. This inititative, known as the PE Adaptive Tennis Program, is currently utilized in three schools in North Carolina and ATANC hopes to have it in many more across the state within the year.

On April 9 ATANC and WFRHS special education teacher Gail Tucker teamed up to provide special needs students at the high school an opportunity to play tennis alongside its men’s Cougar tennis team. The Cougar tennis squad took part in drills with the students before playing abbreviated combo doubles matches with them.

“Events like these mean more than you’ll ever know,” said Tucker. “Not only to my students, but to their parents as well.”

Tucker shared a story from a parent soon after beginning a similair program called Field of Dreams, which paired baseball and special needs students together. She recalled the parent saying, “I can’t believe all of these students are out here cheering for my child and calling them by name. We’ve never had that. For the first time ever, I actually feel like he is part of the school.

“It is this one statement that fuels me to involve my students in as many athletic opportunities as possible within our school,” explained Tucker. “The benefits are endless.”

Shortly before the match began, the Cougars’ opponent that evening, Wakefield High School, invited the WFRHS special needs students into their pre-game cheer. Instead of chanting its own school name, the Wolverines squad opted to go with a neutral and thus unified “Go Wake Forest” chant.

The idea to bring the tennis team and special needs students together for the day's match actually originated from Cougar student-athlete Lukas Warren, a senior on the tennis team. Lukas is part of a class called Peer Discovery, which sends students into elementary classrooms in the community to assist teachers with classroom activities. He chose to join Tucker’s class and hopes to work with special needs students after graduation.

“Lukas has developed a wonderful relationship with the class and was very excited to help them learn to play tennis,” said Tucker. “The kids loved supporting him also by cheering him on during his match. I think one of the greatest benefits of involving our special needs students with their school’s athletic program is the relationships that are formed between our regular education and special education populations. Everyone learns, everyone grows!”

Although WFRHS lost the match 8-1 to Wakefield High School, it certainly won the day.

USTA North Carolina partners with organizations across the state to spread the game of tennis to athletes of all abilities. In fact, adaptive tennis training and special equipment for special education PE classes were provided to WFRHS by the PE Adaptive Tennis Program of the ATANC and a USTA Serves Grant.

For more information on how you can bring adaptive tennis to a school or program near you, contact USTA North Carolina Director of Community Development Amy Franklin at 336-852-8577 or amy@nctennis.com. 


INSIDE THE GOTTIZONE is a blog written by USTA North Carolina's Matt Gottfried in an attempt to show a side of tennis that many never hear about. Have an interesting story you would like to share? Maybe a comment on this story? Send your thoughts to matt@nctennis.com!