More than 170 singles and doubles tennis athletes were welcomed to the USTA National Campus on May 7-8, to participate in the 2021 Special Olympics Florida State Tennis Championships.
“It really was amazing to see the athletes back on the court and having fun with their friends again,” said Bankole Adebanjo, Vice President of Sports & Programs for Special Olympics Florida. “Everyone did a great job with our new safety measures and protocols which made for an all-around fantastic weekend.”
The tennis competition was comprised of several divisions, including Red Ball 1, Red Ball 2, Orange Ball, Green Ball, Yellow Ball 1, Yellow Ball 2 and individual skills.
More than 100 volunteers and chaperones from Special Olympics Florida assisted at the event, with the additional support of 39 coaches, more than 40 USTA Florida volunteers and staff, and five USTA staff members. USTA Florida’s Director of Community Tennis, Danielle Gooding, weighed in on hosting the games after they were canceled last year.
“It was both a relief and slightly stressful,” she said. “A relief in the sense that we could provide this event for the athletes who have been eager to continue competing and stressful in the sense that we wanted to make sure we were providing a safe environment for all involved.”
Athletes from 19 counties participated: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Collier, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Palm Beach, Santa Rosa, Seminole and St. Lucie.
“You could tell all the athletes and their support teams were so happy to be back; you could not help but notice the excitement,” added Gooding. “The athletes were able to resume their training and county competitions early in the year and the opportunity to bring their training to fruition was the icing on the cake.”
Special Olympics Florida is part of an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics Florida serves over 60,000 athletes and offers training and competition in a variety of team and individual sports, with the help of over 38,000 dedicated coaches and volunteers statewide.
For more info on adaptive tennis opportunities in Florida, please visit www.ustaflorida.com/diversity.