Wheelchair Tennis Team Serves as Virginia Tech’s Sole Adaptive Sports Team
Virginia Tech’s only adaptive athletics team is the wheelchair tennis team, according to Virginia Tech News. Adaptive athletics are recreational or competitive sports for people with disabilities, as defined by Accessibility.com. Due to the lack of adaptive sports on campus, the wheelchair tennis team is striving to make a lasting impact on the university.
The Adaptive Athletics Association recently hosted the NSW Wheelchair Open from September 21 to September 24, and the Canberra Wheelchair Open from September 26 to September 28.
Virginia Tech Recreational Sports collaborated with the university’s varsity men’s tennis team to establish a wheelchair clinic, which is the first of its kind in the school’s history. The team has been hosting wheelchair tennis clinics every week, with athletes volunteering to teach adaptive athletes. This initiative eventually led to the creation of a club sports team that practices at the clinics.
Frank Thompson, a member of the men’s tennis team and a student studying management and analytics, initiated the clinics as his eighth-grade community service project. Thompson still volunteers for the clinics, which have gradually grown over the years and now consist of seven people.
Gaila Fosbinder, a sophomore studying engineering, is a part of the wheelchair tennis team. She initially played the sport standing since the age of eight, but her condition, arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, led her to play in a power wheelchair three years ago. Fosbinder’s interest in tennis was sparked by watching her parents play in a local park, and she decided to be a part of the sport herself. Fosbinder joined Virginia Tech after being recruited by Jason Harnett, the United States Tennis Association wheelchair tennis head coach, following a grant awarded to the university to expand the program.
The team highly values disabled athlete representation and believes that physical disabilities do not hinder the skills required to play a sport. This belief is demonstrated through the wheelchair clinics. The impact of these clinics has also led to the creation of an Adaptive Recreation course, an introductory class that aims to educate and provide opportunities for people with and without disabilities to play and compete in sports.
According to Fosbinder, wheelchair tennis is a sport that can easily integrate both able-bodied individuals and those in wheelchairs. She hopes to see more clinics in the future and aims to expand adaptive athletics beyond tennis during her remaining years at the university.