Father-son Special Olympics team play 'unified' tennis

September 27, 2011 9:54:04 AM PDT
"Play unified to live unified" is the mission of Special Olympics, and tennis is one of the sports that allows players to realize that goal.

Special Olympics tennis players are ranked by skill levels in both singles and doubles.

Nancy Hoekstra is the tennis professional at the Homewood-Flossmoor Racquet and Fitness Club, and she also serves as Special Olympics North America's tennis director.

"There are different levels in Special Olympic Tennis," Hoekstra said. "Level one would be individual skills, level two is our short court where we play with a low net and the foam balls and level three is traditional court with the yellow ball. They can play singles, doubles or unified. Unified is when you take an athlete with intellectual disabilities and pair them with a non-disabled player and they play together, they train together and they compete together."

She continued: "We start with movement and then we just build on it. We start very stationary and then with form ball which goes slower and a smaller court. Then we get to full court and nice they have their strokes down and movement down then we add the strategy to the game and they pick it up quickly."

"We've had some athletes go on to take the USTA provisional official tests and they are super officials," Hoekstra said.

Rules of competition are very similar to USTA rules with some adaptations. For example, sets are won with four games instead of six. If score tied 40/40, the player or team that gets the next point wins the game.

Nick Brozek, 26, has been playing tennis for six years. He's a 3.0-3.5 player.

"I play singles and doubles," Nick said, but added that he prefers singles."More room to run around."

Nick and his dad Don play on the unified tennis team.

"It's been fantastic. They are great athletes and it's just fun to share playing tennis with them," Don said.

Don even says his son is the better player.

"Believe me he beats me more than I beat him," Don said.

ABC7's Karen Meyer got to play unified tennis with Nick and Don Brozek. Her partner was Kevin Curran. She said both members of Special Olympics tennis are great players.

"We would like to get more unified players going," Hoekstra said. "We would like each club to have a unified team to partner up with their local agency, get partners together and have weekly competitions."

Nick's goal is to qualify for the world games which will be held in four years and in Los Angles.

For more information on Unified tennis is Illinois, please visit www.soill.org

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