Wheelchair tennis pilot project by SportCares Foundation
Wheelchair tennis pilot project by SportCares Foundation enables people with disabilities to live out their tennis dreams
A 10-week wheelchair tennis pilot project will be launched in December for youth and adults with disabilities. Organised by SportCares Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Singapore and Porsche Asia Pacific, the pilot project aims to engender a spirit of inclusiveness as well as providing an opportunity for more people to live better through sport.
Says Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, “This new undertaking by SportCares demonstrates its commitment to serving society. Through social initiatives like the SportCares movement, we hope to have a more inclusive society where everyone has the chance to experience and even excel in sport. This new initiative by SportCares will reach out to even more Singaporeans with disabilities, and inspire them to live better through sport.” The Minister was speaking on Saturday at a tennis clinic organised by SportCares for underprivileged girls in the community in conjunction with players from the WTA Finals at OCBC Arena.
Empowering people through the sport of tennis
SportCares has been running the Love Singapore programme for girls for the past year. Not only have they learned how to play tennis, the girls have become active contributors to our sporting community. With support from SportCares, they volunteered at the 28th Southeast Asian Games, and they will serve as young ambassadors for Singapore at The Nila Suite for Athletes at the upcoming 8th ASEAN Para Games.
“For the second year in a row the U.S. Embassy is proud to support this valuable youth sports programme. SportCares uses tennis to help girls in Singapore develop skills to lead healthy lives, learn about team work, and build confidence for successful futures,” says Kirk Wagar, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. “Our Embassy believes in the mission of SportCares because we recognise that strong girls become strong women who become the leaders of tomorrow. I am glad to see that this year, SportCares is adding wheelchair tennis to its youth programs. This will enable new friends to be made and develop these skills in a wider range of Singapore’s youth and makes it very clear to me that Singapore’s future is bright and promising because it will draw on the power, talents and skills from more girls than ever.”
The SportCares wheelchair tennis pilot was inspired by the commitment and determination of the athletes taking part in the 8th ASEAN Para Games. Working with Coach Sjaiful Sjahrin, six to 10 youths and adults with disabilities will be learning the foundation of wheelchair tennis. Over time, SportCares’ long-term goal is to develop a wheelchair tennis programme for children and youth from schools, special needs groups and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs). Broader offerings in sports for people with disabilities will allow them to lead more active, satisfying lives. A recurring programme can provide an opportunity for talent identification for those with the potential to be further groomed to represent Singapore in the sport. SportCares will work closely with the Singapore Disability Sports Council to develop this programme on a sustained basis.
“The average person may not expect that someone with disabilities would want to play sport,” says 59 year-old Derek Yzelman. “But playing wheelchair tennis and doing wheelchair racing has given me an immense amount of satisfaction, self-esteem and fitness over the years. I may have been struck down with polio when I was two years old but I have refused to stay down.”
The wheelchairs for this pilot project will be purchased through funds donated by the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. Costs related to coaching, transportation and other programme support will be covered through donation from Porsche Asia Pacific.
“I can hardly wait to try wheelchair tennis because I am always ready to play sport,” said 9 year-old Irwa Marissa. Diagnosed with Global Development Delay, Marissa has a fierce spirit that got her on to her school’s CCA swim team. “You should see me in the pool!”
SportCares takes on world number three Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Almost 40 children and youth from the SportCares Love Singapore tennis programme were given the opportunity to meet World No. 3 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands at a tennis clinic organised by SportCares and WTA, held at the OCBC Arena.
The tennis clinic gave these SportCares youth an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the world. It also provided these youth with a platform to pit themselves against a world class tennis player, with the hope of inspiring them to go further in the sport.
“Tennis is a sport that I grew up playing and that has since opened a lot of doors for me in life. To be able to work with SportCares means a lot to me as we are able to reach out to girls in the local community in the host city of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. As the Official Social Cause of the WTA Finals, we are very grateful for the support of the U.S. Embassy because with that, we are able to put more racquets in hands and encourage young girls to live a better life through sport. Bringing our top WTA players to spend time today with the children of SportCares will only create a positive impact which will hopefully help to grow the sport of tennis to greater heights in Singapore,” said Melissa Pine, Tournament Director of the WTA Finals and Vice-President of WTA Asia Pacific.
Commenting on the tennis clinic, Bethanie Mattek-Sands said: “It was such a pleasure meeting the girls from SportCares. I was impressed by their willingness to learn and improve as well as by their undeniable love for the game. I believe that if they work hard and continue training, they will definitely excel. I look forward to their success.”
The SportCares Foundation and Movement was set up in late 2012 to help people live better lives through sport. From underprivileged children to people of all ages with disabilities to enthusiastic volunteers to needy seniors to generous donors, sport can be a channel to empower people to live better. Designed to use sport as a force for social good, SportCares works with other concerned agencies to develop and support sustainable, scalable programming to engage the vulnerable segments of our society. SportCares is a key recommendation of Sport Singapore’s (SportSG) Vision 2030: Live Better through Sport master plan.