SPUD, Belton, SC


One of the highlights of my summer was attending the SPUD tennis tournament in Belton, SC.  On July 9th, my daughter and I headed south for 2 days of fun tennis and fellowship.    The small town of Belton is the ideal spot for this tournament with 3 locations for matches and the SC Tennis Hall of Fame across the street from the courts was the logical spot for our meals.  Many of the players were from SC and Georgia, with two athletes from NC, Kevin Olin and Justin Hunsucker.

The tournament was fashioned after USTA league matches with 4 teams playing each other throughout the weekend.  We played two matches on Friday and one Saturday morning with the awards banquet following at the Belton Tennis Center.  Each team had a colored t-shirt to identify them.  We had volunteers from all over SC, GA and NC playing as unified partners with the athletes.  Though it was toasty warm, everyone held up well and fun was had by all.

Also, this summer, Play Days are in action with the first one at Aston Park in Asheville.  It was nothing short of a miracle that we were able to play…it was the only dry hour and a half the entire day!  One of our participants had never played tennis and she was reticent to say the least!  I just received an email from her that she has the tennis bug and she has not missed a day of tennis since the Play Day!  Love it!  Our next Play Day will be in Wilmington on August 14th and then we will move to Johnston County and then Greensboro.


Upcoming Events and Town of Cary Award

Well, I think spring is around the corner!  We sure are counting on it with several events coming up.  This spring we will be having a Play Day on March 20th at Millbrook Exchange Park and then the Swing into Spring Tournament in Wilmington on April 11th, followed by the Winston- Salem Adaptive Open on March 14 – 16th.  I hope you all are planning ahead to make these three events.  Please sign up on line!

In spite of the snow this week, Abilities Tennis, along with Western Wake Tennis, had a warm welcome Monday night, February, 23rd, at the Town of Cary awards banquet.  ATANC and WWTA were recognized as Cary’s Partner Organizations of the Year for their weekly Abilities Tennis clinics hosted at Cary Tennis Park.

The Abilities Tennis clinics started last spring as a way for Cary Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources department to help provide more adaptive programming for people with special needs.  In a partnership, Abilities Tennis provided the training, curriculum and equipment through grant monies provided by NC Tennis.  Western Wake’s,  Laura Weygandt organizes all the volunteers.  There are 2 pros who work with this clinic, Daniel Ebert and Reid Kinlaw.  There have been 55 volunteers to participate.  The clinics are available to 15 athletes and a wait list is fast approaching.

Watching these athletes grow in the sport of tennis has been exciting.  Seven of the 15 clinic participants played in the Annual Winter Chill at NC State University.  We are watching our mission being fulfilled through these athletes.  Via tennis, ATANC  provides exercise for the body, teaches tennis strategy to exercise the mind, and models patience and acceptance to further the social interactions of all our Abilities athletes.


Winter Chill -THANK YOU!

Last weekend, December 6th, we had the 7th Annual Winter Chill Tournament!  It was a blast!  We had more than 80 athletes attend and we all snuggled into the 4 court indoor facility at N.C. State.  It was a fast paced day with 2 short sets of doubles for each team and then off to play some tennis with the N.C. State Women’s Tennis Team!

This blog is mostly to thank all the many people who came together to make this tournament such a success.  Everyone did so much that I cannot adequately describe all the efforts that went into making this day so wonderful.  First, I’d like to thank Kirstie Marx for setting the foundation with 6 prior tournaments!  Due to this ground work, we were able to talk with Simon Earnshaw, the new N.C. State Women’s tennis coach, and explain how it worked in years past.  He was sold after talking with his team and they were all on board for another grand event.  Also, Jessie Taliaferro was a part of quickly getting us an appointment with Simon as he had just gotten to town at the beginning of the school year and was getting his feet wet, but this didn’t stop his adventuresome spirit.  Next, Deb Skiko stepped up to help with the planning and organizing and she is a real pro at this…she kept us on track and focused.  She filled many shoes….setting up the Volunteer Spot, working on the trophies, decorations, and the list is quite lengthy!  Meghan Kofod was invaluable in her expertise with the website, setting up Eventbrite was extremely helpful in keeping us organized and in touch.  Debbie Ratliff also participated and gave us a detailed account of years past.  Amy Franklin stepped right in with NC USTA and they were the biggest supporter of the tournament.  She also came and took fabulous pictures, putting them in a heart warming video for all to enjoy.  Cameron Rosenow and Chase Helpingstine were invaluable in their tennis knowledge and expertise in running a tournament.  Thanks guys! Susan Flanagan did the t-shirts for us and Alex Welch did the logo.  Cristine Allison and Jodi Heare contributed a banner.  Madi Vanarthos sang an incredible rendition of The National Anthem.  Christian Kofod was our stringer.  Courtney Casey was in charge of arts and crafts.  Fred Laws, Carson Welch and Ruth Hochstrasser ran the skills court.  Dottie and Cammy worked the check in desk.  Sally and John Hunter dealt with Subway delivery and a lost delivery man.  They hauled trash away, cleaned up and had us completely packed up in 45 minutes.  Susan Lemmons dealt with the finances.  Many, many volunteers showed up and found numerous ways to step in and help!

Lastly, I would like to thank the athletes for coming and bringing joy that was palpable and also the women’s team for making this such a fun and exciting time…and all right before their exams!  Y’all are champs!  We are rooting for you all!


Winston-Salem Open and Footprints on the Court

Wow, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind!  August 19th at the Winston-Salem Open, Abilities Tennis was featured in an exhibition match before the pros donned the court.  The father-son dynamic duo, Charles and Justin Hunsucker, took on Kristine Hughes and Lou Welch, first time partners.  The competition was exciting with all four at the net battling out most of the points.  Charles’s deceptively spinny serve posed a problem for Lou as did Justin’s line drive shots at Lou at the net.  Kristine held her own as we battled over every point!  A grand time was had by all….looking forward to next year!

Then it was on to our fundraiser sponsored by RTA (Raleigh Tennis Association) on September 5th.  The fundraiser was aptly named Footprints on the Court and was under way back in early 2013.  Over 35 creative baskets were made by league tennis teams to be auctioned off  at the tournament being held at North Hills Club in Raleigh.  Over 120 people signed up to play mixed doubles and women’s doubles on this Friday evening from 6:00 – 10:00 pm.  Truly it was like a swarm of bees came in and worked diligently creating an exciting ambience for the athletes and participants.  By 6:00 the athletes were warmed up and ready to play in the exhibition matches.  We had one court of singles and a court of doubles.  Participants included Brian Buker, Matt Carpenter, Darek Alexiou, Jacob Melcher, Adam Martin, Ruth Hochstrasser and Kristine Hughes.  Many of the athletes played for 4 hours, taking a short break to enjoy dinner.

Though the rain cut short play for some, many continued through the drizzle.  Because of the rain, we did not have time to thank so many who made this event such a huge success.  Susan Flanagan and her team worked tirelessly for months.  They were amazing and I heard many comments on the professional quality of this tournament.  Also, we thank Wells Fargo, Merz Aesthetics and North Hills Club.  Shane Wells went out of his way to be accommodating, making all the courts available for our use and providing the balls.  Many club members played in the tournament and asked for it to return next year!  Yes, we will!

Now it is on to planning the Winter Chill!  We will keep you posted as we nail down dates and places.


Recap of Winston-Salem Adaptive Tennis Open

From May 15 – 17, over 40 athletes met to compete in the National tournament held at the Vision Tennis Center in Clemmons, NC, just outside of Winston-Salem.  Vision Tennis Center hosts this yearly event with enthusiasm and fervor that is impressive to all.  Alex and Dave, the tennis pros at Vision Tennis Center, gave generously of their time acting as referees, conducting drills, organizing meals, and befriending all who attended.  Charles Hunsucker recruited and trained more than 70 volunteers for the tournament.  Kirstie Marx methodically organized the divisions and draws to make for exciting competition.

As the athletes arrived from all over North Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts, emotions mounted as hugs and high fives were shared.  Thursday night athletes participated in drills and practice for the tournament which would take place on Friday and Saturday. There were eight divisions and skilled courts for athletes to hone and practice their strokes.  Winston-Salem is the only tournament which provides this opportunity for athletes to practice their skills through drills.  These athletes are not ready to compete in matches, but have the drive to work hard and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with playing in tournaments.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, the athletes were motivated to win, but more importantly were excited to be participating.  They encouraged each other to play their best, even when they were directly across the net from each other. When changing sides of the court, words of kindness, slaps on the back and high fives were common.

The weekend culminated in the awards banquet with medals given to the participants in each division according to their rank.  Finally, the sportsmanship award was given to the player voted upon by all the coaches and athletes.  Zola was beaming with such a high honor.  Athletes, volunteers and organizers left with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, and promises to return next year!

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