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New Vision Tennis Program at Sportime in Schenectady


 New Visions & 15 Love Launch First Tennis Program for People With Developmental Disabilities

By Audrey Etkin, Physical Therapist, New Visions

On March 14, 2011, New Visions, an organization that has worked on behalf of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities for 60 years, launched the first-ever New Visions Tennis Program at Sportime in Schenectady, New York. This new and exciting opportunity is offered to any New Visions program participant.

The New Visions Tennis Program was organized by Audrey Etkin, a New Visions Physical Therapist, in conjunction with 15 LOVE, a co-offered program of the Capital Region Youth Tennis Foundation and Sportime.  The collaboration of these three organizations provides New Visions’ participants the unique opportunity to experience the benefits of tennis for the first time ever.

The mission of this program is to provide year-round tennis instruction and training for people of any age with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, improve body movement skills, increase self-esteem, experience joy and participate in the sharing of skills and friendship.

Participation in sports brings significant benefits to people with developmental disabilities of all ages and abilities.  Tennis is a popular sport played at all levels of skill and by all ages of players. For individuals with developmental delay, tennis provides the same benefits it affords to people without disabilities. Tennis offers many benefits compared to other sports, including the fact that it is a non-contact sport, a life-long year-round sport, anyone can play regardless of gender, age, fitness, or ability, and tennis builds balance, hand-eye coordination, agility, fitness, body awareness, spatial awareness, concentration and focus within a framework of fun and social interaction.  Learning to keep score teaches abstract math skills and builds short-term memory.  Tennis strategy teaches split-second decision-making and strategic thinking.  It emphasizes values such as fair play, sportsmanship and respect for fellow competitors. Tennis is not only fun to play, but can be a lifetime sport activity that is fun to practice and fun to learn.

The 60-minute tennis lessons are designed to build basic skills.  The New Visions group consists of 12-14 players.  The lessons are taught by an experienced pro with assistance from the New Visions clinical staff of physical, occupational and speech-language therapists. Our participants include individuals with the following diagnoses; Autism, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Aspberger’s Syndrome, mental retardation, profound hearing loss, schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Congenital Rubella Syndrome and Anxiety Disorder.

Playing tennis provides the following benefits to the New Visions program participants:

· Physical:  Improves total fitness, balance and coordination, agility, cardiovascular fitness, range of motion, strength and endurance

      · Helps to develop eye-hand coordination 

· Enhances body awareness and movement skills

· Mental: Tennis teaches concentration on particular tasks.  Knowledge of skills, rules and strategy all apply. Individuals learn to acquire increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and pride.

·Social: Tennis facilitates opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances, teamwork, interaction with peers and people, offers opportunities to travel and learn about other places and interests and increases community awareness and acceptance.

In addition to the tennis program, New Visions, a New York State leader in service provision for people with developmental disabilities since 1951, currently offers educational, habilitative, rehabilitative, vocational, recreational and residential programs and services to over 600 people and their families in the Capital Region.  New Visions strives to promote the principles of responsible choice, personal satisfaction, inclusion and meaningful individualized opportunities through personal empowerment.  New Visions has joined the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as an organizational member and hopes to benefit from grants offered from the USTA to grow the program in the future.

Audrey Etkin, Physical Therapist, is a graduate of Russell Sage College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy.  Audrey has 29 years of experience treating patients in many different settings including owning her own outpatient physical therapy office in Delmar, New York, consulting at assisted living facilities throughout the Capital Region and consulting for New Visions for 15 years.  Audrey’s love for tennis developed when she played in high school.  Her husband Steve is a tennis teaching professional who owns his own tennis academy in Clifton Park, New York and who has been a captain for USTA Junior Team Tennis for 15 years.  Audrey’s older daughter played Division I tennis for the University at Albany and her younger daughter is currently on the varsity tennis team at Shenendehowa High School.

The New Visions tennis pro is Domingo Montes, Program Director of 15 LOVE The program, founded in 1990 with the help of tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, provides free tennis and basic life skills to more than 1,000 inner city children throughout the year at 19 sites across the Capital Region. 15 LOVE, a program of the Capital Region Youth Tennis Foundation uses tennis as a medium to reach its greater goals; it teaches self-respect, honor and discipline, promotes multicultural relationships, exemplifies the benefits of healthy living, good health and fitness, education and instills good sportsmanship. The 15 LOVE program was named one of the "Top Community Tennis Associations" in the United States by Tennis Week magazine. 15 LOVE teaches "what it takes to succeed in life, while helping them learn what it takes to succeed on the tennis court."

Sportime is an organization in New York that offers sports, fitness and fun to the local community. Operating 13 clubs across Long Island, in New York City, in Westchester County and in the Capital Region, Sportime strives to provide their members with a welcoming and comfortable environment. We thank Philippe Ceas, Director of Tennis, for believing inour program and arranging our weekly court time.

Audrey Etkin, Physical Therapist at New Visions, can be reached at (518) 935-4530, or via email atamept@nycap.rr.com   For more information regarding New Visions or our programs and services, please contact Margie Sheehan, Director of Communications, Public Relations and Development, at (518) 935-4334 or via email atmsheehan@newvisionsofalbany.org