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First-ever USTA National Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis Championships Open Saturday

April 30, 2004 12:09 PM
The inaugural United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis Championships will be taking place May 1-2 at the University of Texas-Arlington Tennis Center.
This historic event will feature players from four schools: Arizona, Middle Tennessee, Northeast Louisiana and host Texas-Arlington. An organized, national wheelchair championship at the collegiate level for any sport is very rare and this year's tennis championships are expected to be the start of a growing event, with the field expanding each year. The tournament includes men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles.
"This event is an important one as it gives us opportunity to highlight collegiate wheelchair athletes," says Tina Dale, Chairwoman USTA Wheelchair Tennis Committee. "While this year's field may appear small in numbers it is a huge accomplishment for the collegiate wheelchair program just to get to this point of holding a national championship. The program has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years and this event will help spur even more growth."
UT-Arlington Coach Jim Hayes is organizing the event and Marcia Rodriguez, a former USTA/Texas Section President and member of the USTA Wheelchair Tennis Committee, is the tournament director.
The tournament will open with a kick-off banquet on Friday, April 30 at the UTA University Center at 7 p.m. Matches start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Wheelchair tennis is one of the fastest growing and most challenging of all wheelchair sports. To meet this demand, the USTA offers programs geared towards the wheelchair player. Rules are the same as stand-up tennis, except the wheelchair player is allowed two bounces of the ball. Wheelchair tennis provides persons with disabilities the opportunity to share in activities with their peers and family, whether able-bodied or disabled. Playing wheelchair tennis adds to socialization and the normalization of life after sustaining a disabling injury. Proficient wheelchair users can play and actively compete against stand-up players. In wheelchair tennis, the player must master the game and the wheelchair. Learning mobility on the court is exciting and challenging, and helps build strength and cardiovascular ability.

The purposes of collegiate wheelchair tennis are: to advance the growth of wheelchair tennis, to encourage individuals with disabilities to pursue a college education and to give students with disabilities the opportunity to compete in an intercollegiate sport as a representative of their institution.
This event is also part of the USTA, Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association's (NIRSA) intramural tennis initiative. The goal of this initiative is to encourage and empower students in wheelchairs to join campus recreational classes and organized tennis activities in an effort to stay physically active while in school. Most important, this initiative is not a separate one from the one to increase intramural participation amongst able-bodied students on college campuses. The goals are exactly the same and integration is the key to growing the number of students in wheelchairs participating in a tennis program.
Collegiate wheelchair tennis has come a long way over the past few years. In addition to the national tournament, the sport now includes regional events during the academic year and season-ending rankings.



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