Tennis requires a fast response time, hand-eye coordination and a lot of stamina. The non-profit, Buddy Up Tennis, is serving up these skills to athletes with Down syndrome and creating a community of tennis lovers.
Serve it, smash it, win it, love it!
The 90-minute weekly session I watched locally would have anyone’s heart rate up. More than 20 athletes with Down syndrome teamed up with “buddies” who also enjoy the sport. There was a half an hour of high-intensity calisthenics, another half hour of basic skill building, and then time to play the game.
“Buddy Up Tennis is my favorite MVDSA (Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association) activity. My buddy, Jeff, is so funny and I accidentally hit him with the tennis ball a couple times this Saturday but he just laughed,” explains athlete Walter May. Buddy Up Tennis even led to a job for May at the local tennis club.
The non-profit was started in 2008, when an Ohio mom, Beth Gibson, was playing tennis with her typical child and noticed her 3-year-old son with Down syndrome loved watching them play. “Will was always fascinated with tennis. Staff members at our tennis club soon volunteered to teach tennis to Will, and researched techniques for teaching children with Down syndrome in order to do so. As a result of this research, the need was identified for an organized tennis and fitness program for individuals with Down syndrome,” Gibson explains.
No experience is required and all individuals with Down syndrome 5-years-old and up are welcome to play. The program teaches the following skills:
- specialized training in the fundamentals of tennis
- improvement in muscle tone, core strength, agility, coordination skills
- opportunities to expand social and emotional skills through sportsmanship and team building
- connection to the Down syndrome community in your area
Buddy volunteers are at the heart of the Buddy Up Tennis program.
The buddies include a combination of tennis professionals and typical peers who love the game. Anna Jones, head coach for Dayton’s Buddy Up Tennis says the local group has a strong following. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved,” Jones says.
My Dad is visiting from California, and is an old tennis pro from way back. He was chopping at the bit to get out their and play. By the end, he’d made fast, new friends with 14-year-old Aljoon, who happens to rock an extra chromosome. “What an awesome program! I can’t wait for Troy to be old enough to play. Tennis is a great sport and these kids are gaining life-long skills they can use to stay active,” my dad happily describes.
Find out if there’s a Buddy Up Tennis program in your area or how you can start your own here.