The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Tennis added to Rec Center’s wheelchair-accessible sports

Courtesy / GVSU

Grand Valley State University’s Recreation and Wellness department hosted the first adaptive tennis game in the beginning of this month. Aside from being in a wheelchair, the rules of wheelchair tennis are almost the same as regular tennis. The main exception is the option to let the ball bounce twice instead of only once.

GVSU offers a number of adaptive sporting events, including wheelchair football, wheelchair basketball and goalball. Recreation and Wellness’ website says their goal is to “create an accessible and accommodating environment for those with disabilities to participate in recreation on campus.” Able-bodied athletes are also encouraged to play, which provides an opportunity for them to learn in a socially inclusive and supportive environment. 

Adaptive Sports Supervisor Samantha LaMantia said the events can be beneficial for all participants. 

“It’s a great way to put yourself in someone else’s mindset and learn the sport because a lot of them are like, completely different sports,” LaMantia said. 

LaMantia enjoyed working at a camp for people with physical disabilities over the summer. They had played some adaptive sports there, so she applied to be a supervisor at GVSU and has loved it ever since.

Once the majority of athletes arrived to the event they were taken through brief instruction to help them get used to the equipment, as about half of the attendees hadn’t played an adaptive sport before. Supervisors led them through drills of wheelchair control and returning serves, giving helpful tips along the way. After that, they were split into teams of two and encouraged to play games at their own pace. There was the exact number of players to fill the courts.

“I’m actually surprised we had a good amount of people show up, and it’s always nice to really have people who just like wandered in,” LaMantia said. 

The program has 12 wheelchairs and event supervisors provided water and chips for athletes and attendees.

In the last half hour of the session, teams were given the opportunity to play more competitively, offering free T-shirts as a prize for the winning team. 

GVSU freshman Noah Reno was among the participants. He and his roommate Maddie Schroeder enjoyed playing the department’s wheelchair football in the past, so they were excited about the opportunity to try another adaptive sport. 

“It’s eye opening,” Reno said. “It takes a minute to get used to the wheelchairs and everything, but once you get it, it’s a lot of fun, and kind of a whole new perspective on the original sport.”

Schroeder said she first went to wheelchair football to learn about adaptive sports. She’s grown to enjoy the activities. 

“I initially came here to just cheer them on, but then I decided last minute that I wanted to try and then I had a really good time,” Schroeder said. 

LaMantia said adaptive sports has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. She was happy that everyone was kind and respectful. She values seeing people bond when playing adaptive sports. 

“It doesn’t feel like work,” LaMantia said. “It’s not like I’m going into it, but I really enjoy it and I enjoy meeting new people and helping people learn, try new things and make new connections.”

The next adaptive sporting event will be wheelchair basketball, hosted on April 14 at 7 p.m. in the GVSU Rec Center. 

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