More than 190 singles and doubles tennis athletes descended on the USTA National Campus when the Orlando facility hosted the 2019 Special Olympics Florida State Tennis Championships on May 10-11.
In addition to the tennis competition, players were treated to lunches, dinners, an athletes dance, and the emotional Opening Ceremony kicking off the festivities.
“It was an amazing experience to have the State Tennis competition as a stand-alone event,” said USTA Florida Diversity & Outreach Coordinator Maria Romo. “This has been the goal for many years. Seeing athletes from all over the state smiling and anxious to compete is indescribable.”
Division included skills Red Ball 1, Red Ball 2 (individual and unified doubles), Orange Ball (individual and unified doubles), Green Ball (individual and unified doubles), and Yellow Ball (individual and unified doubles).
The Florida tennis community rallied to support the event as approximately 50 coaches, 200 state volunteers, 50 delegates, and more than 40 USTA Florida volunteers and staff made the 2019 Special Olympics Florida State Tennis Championships a reality.
“All the amazing USTA Florida volunteers and staff, as well as USTA national employees, came together to make this event happen,” Romo said. “It just shows how much we appreciate having the opportunity to run an event like this and how tennis is for everyone.”
Athletes from 24 counties participated: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jackson, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Sarasota and Seminole.
Through the partnership with Special Olympics Florida and USTA Florida, Special Olympics tennis participation in Florida has increased 29 percent over the last year.
In 2014 USTA Florida and the USTA Florida Section Foundation announced a landmark three-way agreement with Special Olympics Florida to provide more tennis play opportunities to athletes in Florida. The formal agreement has built on the existing support that USTA Florida and its charitable arm provided to local Special Olympics programs by offering free youth and Net Generation workshops, grants, and other resources such as Special Olympics workshops to providers that offer or would like to start offering tennis programs to Special Olympics athletes.
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 offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 30 Olympic-type summer and winter sports.
For more info on adaptive tennis opportunities in Florida go to www.ustaflorida.com/diversity.