Attend any of Judy Moore’s ‘Tennis for Fun’ clinics and don’t expect to get a handshake for a greeting. Instead, expect a hug. At least, that’s how the program’s athletes greet one another.
“Hugs when everybody comes, and hugs when everybody leaves,” Moore says.
Moore is the director of Tennis for Fun, a program that teaches tennis to the special-needs community. Her son Nathan, a tennis player, started the program in 2000 to fulfill community service requirements in high school.
“Nathan’s always been exposed to the special needs community,” Moore says. “I taught special education. He knew that there was no program for tennis. They had basketball and soccer, but there wasn’t tennis.”
Nathan set parameters for his new program. It had to be free and it had to be set up for those with special needs. It is run entirely by volunteers who are certified Special Olympics instructors.
In the first year, he had about 15 athletes. Since then, the program has expanded from Brandon to Fishhawk and Tampa. There are also two locations in Maine and one in Minnesota.
The program has benefited from grants. When Special Olympics switched to red-ball (a larger, slower ball) singles, Tennis for Fun received a USTA Florida Foundation grant used to purchase eight new nets and the low-compression balls.
After 16 years, the core of Tennis for Fun is still in the title.
“It’s a fun environment,” Moore says. “It’s a social environment so the athletes get to see their friends.”
Tennis for Fun gives the athletes a chance to keep in touch with friends.
“When the athletes leave high school, they lose the connection of seeing their friends every day,” Moore said. “So when they come to tennis every week, it’s a big social event.”
Each year Moore creates a photo album recapping the program’s events. She recently upgraded to an iPhone, so she can’t help but take a ton of photos to fill the yearbook. However, she’s sure to leave space for a very special section.
“In every scrapbook, there is a page or two for friends,” she says. “When you’re taking pictures, you’ll hear someone say, ‘I gotta have a picture with my buddy.'”
SUPPORT TENNIS PROGRAMS IN FLORIDA
Tennis teaches lessons beyond the court. Show your support for youth and special-needs tennis, as well as for tennis programs in economically-challenged communities, by purchasing a custom “Play Tennis” license plate. Ninety percent of proceeds go toward funding programs like Tennis for Fun.
For more information, visit www.ustafloridafoundation.com/tag.