Clemmons tennis center hosts inclusive tournament

Published 12:10 am Thursday, May 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Sophia Sousa

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Thirty-five athletes, who all have intellectual disabilities, came together to participate in the Abilities Tennis Tournament at the Taylor Tennis Center in Clemmons last month.

In addition to North Carolina, the athletes represented several states, including Maine, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Massachusetts. 

Two local athletes, Evan Miller and Jason Williams, were among the 35 athletes present. Miller has been attending the Taylor Tennis Center for about 10 years. 

“The center and tournament remind our athletes that they belong to something,” said Kevin Krains, the volunteer coordinator for Abilities Tennis in the Winston-Salem area. 

The mission of the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina (ATANC) is to bring fitness, friendship, and community to people with intellectual disabilities through the highly adaptable sport of tennis. It was founded in 2007. 

Athletes can compete, improve, and, most importantly, socialize with their friends. According to Lou Welch, the executive director of the Abilities Tennis Association, 80 percent of the population involved are overweight, so having the chance to have them run and move their feet is critical for their health. 

Today, the ATANC hosts seven tournaments, and all of its events are free for participants. 

All athletes, alongside their family members, friends and supporters, were encouraged to attend the full two days of tennis competitions.

On April 25, individuals who were available could come and have a free play from 5-7 p.m., followed by a pasta dinner. The following day, the competition began for all athletes at different levels. 

That day, they went to Subway for lunch, and that night, they went bowling together. The competition continued on Saturday, followed by lunch at Chick-fil-A. 

At the end of the tournament, all participants received a free T-shirt and a medal for all their hard work. 

“It was a heartwarming event, and our athletes are really good,” Welch said. “People are amazed when they come.”

The Taylor Tennis Center, owned by the Taylor Group Foundation, became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2012. The Taylor family ultimately wanted to do good for their community and built the center for older individuals to play tennis. At the facility, they provide six indoor soft courts and provide a friendly environment for all. 

At the clinic, all athletes begin with a stretching class, and all have the opportunity to suggest a specific stretch for all to do. They all then go to their courts to meet their volunteer. All athletes have one-on-one time with their coach. However, some athletes understand how to share a court and can take turns hitting the ball. 

Volunteers are vital for the clinic and the tournament. These volunteers come on Saturday mornings to assist and coach the athletes, showing support to those around them. 

At least 20 volunteers were present for the tournament. They assisted with keeping scores, retrieving the balls and cheering for all athletes as they played. The clinics offer three different skills: skills, short court, and full court. Full courts were utilized for the tournament. The event was full of joy and excitement, with friends and family cheering as they played. Athletes were also seen high-fiving one another as they left the court. 

Both Krains and Welch expressed their deepest gratitude for all the volunteers who showed up to the clinics as well as the tournament. For future events and tournaments, they are hopeful more athletes will attend and play. It may seem intimidating to hear the word “tournament” and have individuals come from different states to play tennis, but this event is for fun, exercise, and community. 

All athletes, no matter their skill level, are welcome to come and participate in the clinic programs and future events they host.