Have you ever considered what it would be like to play tennis from a wheelchair?
PNW Sectional Wheelchair Tournament
The PNW Sectional Wheelchair Tournament was recently held at the Salem Swim and Tennis Club in Salem, Oregon. I was privileged to be one of the officials.
One of the first impressions is the number of wheelchair parking slots marked. Over half the parking lot is reserved. That is when it hits you again – the difference in arrival of the players. Some have their own custom fitted vans, others have a spouse as the driver, and others are driven in by tournament provided vehicles – with a driver, of course.
Each player has their own method of departing their vehicle. Those with a van open the driver’s door, slide the side door of the van open, reach around and pull their wheelchair out and around to a position beside the driver’s seat. They then leverage themselves out of the driver’s seat into their wheelchair. The process is not finished there. They then proceed to lift another wheelchair out of the van, set it on the ground beside them, open it up, reach in, pull out their racket bag with all their equipment in it, set it on the second wheelchair , lock up the vehicle, then proceed up the walkway to the club, pushing the second wheelchair with their racket bag on top in front of them, while using their other arm to push the wheelchair they are sitting in, up the walkway. This is a skill they all have learned.
Others have their driver, maybe their spouse, friend, or provided driver from the tournament bring their wheelchair to the side of the car they are sitting on and they then set themselves up leveraging themselves from the vehicle to their wheelchair. Their second wheelchair is then set up with their equipment sitting on top and, if the ‘helper’ doesn’t come with them, will push their second wheelchair up the walkway while using their other arm to propel the chair they are sitting in. All this before they have even set ‘wheel’ on the tennis court. I’m tired already.
Why the Second Wheelchair?
Para sports all have different requirements. Each sport has specifications in movement and leverage that require different constructive elements in the wheelchair used. Tennis is no different. The cant that is required on the wheels, the body type of the individual, the type of injury sustained, all enter into the para athletes decision on the type of chair used. All this to say the chair the player uses in daily living cannot be used in the competitive environment of tennis.