Special Olympics Tennis makes debut in India
Special Olympics Bharat has added tennis to its varied portfolio of sports in India. A webinar on tennis training brought together coaches from across India. The Special Olympics is a inclusion movement around the world that uses sport, health, education and leadership programmes to empower people with intellectual disabilities.
A tennis training webinar kicked off a new chapter in the portfolio of Special Olympics Bharat. The organisation has added tennis to its varied portfolio and the nationwide webinar brought together 55 coaches from different states.
The session was led by Teresa Leitao, Director Sports & Unified Sports, Special Olympics Brazil and touched upon aspects like level of skills, type of court, divisions, scoring, and the modified rules to fit it into the ‘Unified’ sports module.
Using sports to empower people with intellectual disabilities
The aim is to prepare an Indian tennis team to debut at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Germany in 2023.
Leitao has organised tennis events for people with intellectual disabilities in Latin America and many other parts of the world. She has also organised tennis tournaments at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2011, 2015 and 2019. “Tennis applies to Special Athletes across all different conditions”, says Leitao. “They all can serve, play, volley etc. It all depends on how they are trained. The communication to the Athletes must be very clear and consistent”.
At the end of the two-part training programme, the coaches will attend internal sessions organised by Special Olympics Bharat to familiarise them with the rules and regulations of the sport. They will then take charge of launching the sport in their respective states by identifying and training more coaches, and looking for suitable athletes. Assisting the coaches will be various area directors.
It is always a significant moment when a new sport is added. It opens doors for new talent and grants us an opportunity to expand our reach to more Athletes and Coaches. The presentation was beautifully articulated incorporating some very simple guidance into the technical aspects of tennis that would eventually make the sport very easy to grasp. – Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, Founder-CEO, Special Olympics Bharat
Tennis is not a poplar sport in the Asia Pacific region but there is great potential, believes Coen Van Putten, Regional Manager Sports, Special Olympics Asia Pacific. “At this stage, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are looking at a rather focused approach, that would eventually percolate to a wider outreach. With close to 1.8 million athletes, an extensive and quality sports infrastructure, a skilled workforce and a strong partnership network, I believe that Special Oympics Bharat has great potential to develop and grow inclusive tennis programming.”
Rules modified in Special Olympics Tennis
Special Olympics Tennis was introduced in 1987 and the game is conducted under the International Tennis Federation rules. The Special Olympics rules for tennis allow modifications to control the length of matches through no-add scoring and options for short Sets. More recently, Special Olympics has introduced additional options for shorter courts and low-compression balls for athletes of lower ability.
Since its launch in 1968, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries. Special Olympics works through seven regions, out of which India falls under the Asia Pacific Region. In the Asia Pacific region, Special Olympics has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million athletes across 35 countries.
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