Volunteer of the Year - Utah Tennis Association
Rehabilitation Center & Utah Tennis Association Join Forces to Increase Access to Tennis
Utah Tennis Association (UTA), in January presented Trish Jensen with the Volunteer of the Year award for her involvement with UTA in developing the Wheelchair Tennis* program in the community. Trish is currently a Development Director with the University Hospital Foundation, and worked for over 12 years with the Rehabilitation Center. She has a background in Therapeutic Recreation which is still the motivator for her involvement in adaptive recreation and sports. The Utah Tennis Association awards are an opportunity for UTA to recognize and thank their volunteers, staff, sponsors, facilities and special friends who all contribute their time, talent and financial resources to help make tennis happen in the State of Utah.
Trish began volunteering with wheelchair tennis 3 years ago. In partnership with UTA, the Hospital Foundation and Rehabilitation Center she applied for a $5000 grassroots tennis grant from U.S. Tennis Association to further enhance the wheelchair tennis program. Utah Tennis Association and the TRAILS Program (Therapeutic Recreation and Independent Lifestyles) at University of Utah Health Care Rehabilitation Center have collaborated to offer expanded programming for Utah Wheelchair Tennis. The grant has allowed the group to focus on tennis rather than logistics. Through their joint efforts, the wheelchair tennis program in 2009 offered the following events:
- 18 outdoor practices (free)-- Liberty Park
- 16 indoor practices (free)-- Sports Mall
- 13 day camps – Utah Tennis/Intermountain/Liberty
- 53 hour clinics (free) – Ivory Ridge
- 28 wk Up-Down Leagues - Coach Mikes & Liberty
- 9 introduction to wheelchair tennis clinics (free)
- 4 TRAILS related clinics (free)
- 2 local tournaments with wheelchair division
The wheelchair tennis program has had great support from the participating tennis centers and from the TRAILS program offering weekly communication notices to participants. UTA received two significant grants for $7500 from the Rotary Club of Salt Lake to purchase 6 sport chairs to enable players without equipment to participate. The grant pays for court time year-around. The program has had 12-20 participants consistently come out and 2-4 wheelchair tennis play coaches at weekly practices, leagues and clinics. They are offering tennis in venues from Lehi to Salt Lake. The goal is to further expand wheelchair tennis availability into Utah and Davis Counties.
“Before this people were teaching wheelchair tennis and playing a little, but it was Trish that created the leadership to make this program work. She’s done a tremendous job getting grants for court time, for wheelchairs and pulling the group together into a coordinated program,” says Susan Daynes, UTA board member and wheelchair tennis advocate. “This would not have happened without Trish’s leadership!”
Linda Vincent, UTA Executive Director says, “Because of all her support the wheelchair tennis program has grown to a point that now it needs the same level of support and recognition as any other program UTA runs. So we’ve now begun a wheelchair tennis committee under UTA. Trish has helped UTA as an organization develop awareness for individuals with physical challenges by guiding, helping and teaching us. And she’s just doing this because she wants to and she cares. This has been a wonderful partnership with University Rehabilitation Center. UTA could not have accomplished this without Trish and the Rehabilitation Center’s involvement. I see this relationship and program as only getting better over time.”
The program has developed some great players. Individuals have gone to 8 different national tournaments from Florida to California including one individual, Ryan Nelson, who went to the World Team Cup and the British Tennis Open. Ryan just started playing 3 years ago. Marianne Page first started playing in 2008. Less than a year later she went to her first tournament at the Florida Open in 2009 and won both singles and doubles competition. Later that year in St. Louis she again won in both singles and doubles. Utah brought home 9 national titles from St. Louis.
“One of the greatest things about the program is we’ve got beginners working with champions; youth playing with older players; men playing with women. We even have cross-over sport paralympian athletes coming out to play. There’s a great spirit amongst the entire group,” says Jensen.
“Everyone worked very closely together to develop the wheelchair tennis program. The real key to the program’s success has been the player-coaches and the community involvement. Numerous corporate and community donations have taken place. In the end, it’s all about tennis, it’s not about disability. It doesn’t matter how you play, as long as you can play. We’re working together to make it possible to allow people to get out and just play tennis!”
*Wheelchair Tennis is one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the country. Rules are the same as stand-up (able-bodied) tennis, except the wheelchair player is allowed two bounces of the ball, which makes it easy to pair a chair player and a stand-up player together for doubles. This popular format is known as One Up-One Down Doubles. This format allows a person with disabilities the opportunity to share in activities with their able-bodied peers, friends and family members and increases the playing opportunities available to individuals in a wheelchair.
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