When it comes to sports for the disabled, people don’t automatically think of tennis. However, tennis is an exciting adaptive sport. Wimbeldon, the world’s most famous tennis matchup, is one of the oldest and most prestigious sporting events still held. Millions of people participate in the invigorating, high-energy world of tennis, and the sport has produced its own class of celebrity players in the Williams Sisters, John McEnroe, and others. So it’s very natural that people from all walks of life would want to play tennis; and why should physical or mental handicaps get in the way of enjoying a good sport?!
The U.S. Tennis Association lists four categories for participants in tennis as an adaptive sport. The first category is for players with mental handicaps and disabilities — this includes players with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, or learning disabilities. The second category is for physically handicapped patients — players with missing limbs, physical birth defects, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and the like. Category three is for ‘consumers of mental health services,’ which can include players with histories of mental illness or handicaps such as schizophrenia or severe depressive disorders. The final category is for environmentally ‘at risk’ players, such as players with HIV or players who come from an abusive environment.
The categorization of players into such groupings allows the USTA to identify the specific needs of each group, and create an adaptive sports experience for everyone who wants to enjoy the game. The message that is meant to be sent with the system is that people understand that different players have different needs, and steps are being taken to help anyone who wants to play tennis have a chance to do so. Anyone, no matter what their disability or limitation, can find a partner to play with and have a chance to play this exciting game.