International Wheelchair Tennis Camp Make a racquet at UH

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UH Adaptive Athletics hosts players for a week of activities

From Mike Emery, 713-743-7197

All eyes are on Wimbledon this week, but another international tennis event is showcasing some true champions of the court.

The University of Houston welcomes young players between the ages of 11 and 18 from around the world to the US Tennis Association/International Tennis Federation Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp (July 6th – 11th). Players spend the week at the university developing their skills on the field, socializing with other campers and exploring the campus.

The university’s Adaptive Athletics program oversees the day-to-day activities of the event and supports campers (who hail from different regions of North and South America) during their stay on campus. The Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp is supported by the university’s Cougar Initiative to Engage (CITE), which provides grants for community engagement programs.

Michael Cottingham, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance, works directly with campers. He also advises the UH Adaptive Athletics students who oversee camp activities.

Alongside Cottingham and participating students, professional coaches from across the country conduct tennis drills to improve players’ swings, volleys and agility. The event will culminate in a competitive tournament.

Beyond tennis, the camp also aims to build the confidence and independence of its participants.

“These campers are part of a population that is socially separated and often marginalized,” Cottingham said. “This will be the first time many of them have been separated from their parents. It’s an opportunity for young people with disabilities to come together, live independently and learn more about what they’re capable of…on and off the tennis court.”

UH students involved in the event also learn new skills as they work closely with visiting campers. According to Cottingham, they gain significant real-world experience that can be applied to future careers in medicine and healthcare.

Adaptive Athletics supports athletic opportunities for students with disabilities at UH. The student-run organization also sponsors national and international events such as this week’s tennis camp and wheelchair rugby tournaments. Last year, Cottingham and students overhauled 40 sports wheelchairs for a Bangladesh-based non-profit organization.

Cottingham thanks CITE for its support of this week’s event and other community-based projects on campus. He is also particularly grateful that CITE provides resources for faculty to develop innovative curricula.

“Thanks to CITE, both our guest campers and our student volunteers can have meaningful learning experiences,” he said.

Based in the Office of the Provost, CITE is UH’s quality improvement plan to increase the number of high-impact learning activities and the number of undergraduate students participating in these activities. Since its inception, CITE has awarded 91 grants that have supported 66 programs. Approximately 5,000 students have reaped the benefits of these CITE-supported projects.

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