The Gary Littlestar Get out and Play Program, supported by grants from USTA Florida and serving deaf, visually-impaired and blind tennis players, will continue its 2019 season through Dec. 28 at Rotonda Community Park in Rotonda West, Fla., south of Sarasota.
The free adult clinics are offered by Pete Zeeh, and include “Masters Tennis” clinics for seniors, in addition to session for juniors and family play.
Art Richards founded and oversees the program.
“There’s not a public court built that I know of that can accommodate a blind player and some of the visually impaired,” says Richards, who notes that most blind tennis clinics in the U.S. are played indoors. “I think I’m the only public parks program not only in this state, but in the country, that does it outdoors. When I do my class, I put down the tactile [raised] lines.”
Older youth and adults play on 60-foot lined courts (compared to the full-size 78-foot court), while younger children start on 36-foot courts with smaller nets, racquets, and slower-bouncing balls.
For his blind tennis clinics Richards uses the original Japanese Sound Ball, a hard-foam official competition ball, and uses spacial-awareness exercises with students.
“They sound like a baby rattle,” Richards says of the Sound Ball. “Their dream is to be able to play tennis like everybody else when they feel like it.”
For additional info on Art Richards’ Rotonda Community Park tennis program for the blind, or other programs, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show your support for grassroots program funding such as this with a “Play Tennis” Florida license plate by going to www.ustafloridafoundation.com/get-involved.