The USTA National Campus has established itself as a place for people of all ages and abilities to play the sport of tennis. Courts are filled with a variety of participants, ranging from young beginners who are picking up a racquet for the first time to lifelong competitive players, not to mention the American pros who train on the same courts at Lake Nona.
There are also a number of programs designed for other players that offer some of the most rewarding moments of tennis at the USTA National Campus.
One of the earlier and most successful alternative tennis programs at the campus is the veterans’ clinic. Started in partnership with Lake Nona’s VA Hospital, the clinic grew from a few sparse participants in a pilot program to a weekly mainstay that has been extended indefinitely.
A number of veterans, some suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, have expressed that tennis has given them an outlet not previously available to them, as well as provided them with camaraderie as they bond with other former servicemen and women.
Some of the original and most dedicated of the program’s participants were invited to last year’s US Open to take part in the tournament’s annual Military Appreciation Day, where they had an opportunity to play on the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
The USTA National Campus is home to the USTA’s wheelchair tennis department, made up of coaches and staff who oversee wheelchair tennis across the country. The top American wheelchair athletes often train at the campus, and a number of wheelchair events have been held in Orlando, notably an International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Team Cup qualifying tournament earlier this year.
Thus, the campus began hosting a free wheelchair tennis clinic for local players, led by the same coaching staff that works with the elite athletes. The weekly clinic has seen a growth in participants, and a number of events at the campus, including USTA Pro Circuit tournaments and College MatchDay events, have incorporated a wheelchair clinic into their schedules.
While the veterans and wheelchair clinics are run by USTA staff, there are two other inspirational alternative tennis programs run by outside organizations that the USTA National Campus has welcomed to the courts at Lake Nona.
Buddy Up Tennis came to the USTA National Campus last fall and has hosted a number of weekend clinics staffed by USTA National Campus employees and volunteers. Buddy Up is a high-energy, adaptive tennis and fitness program for children and young adults with Down syndrome. It is designed to give participants the opportunity to learn the sport of tennis and engage in fitness activities in an enjoyable and supportive environment.
More recently, the USTA National Campus has partnered with ACEing Autism, and weekly tennis clinics are set to be hosted throughout the spring. ACEing Autism’s mission is to connect children with autism through unique tennis programs and to develop and advance proven methods to positively impact the children, families and communities we serve.
All of these programs truly embody the mission of the USTA National Campus of “inspiring a love for American tennis by creating memorable experiences for everyone.”