BDCRA opens registration for special populations tennis program

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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The Bainbridge-Decatur County Recreation Authority (BDCRA) opened registration for a special populations tennis program.

The program is created for children with special needs — physical and behavioral — according to Recreation Authority community development manager Ana Baty. It starts in September and runs for four weeks with two 30-minute sessions per week. Registration closes Aug. 13

Baty is in charge of the program. She has a 4-year-old daughter with autism and ADHD, and said she found motivation in her to start the sessions.

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“That’s why I’ve been so, like, gung-ho about getting this to progress forward,” Baty said. “To have something geared toward [the special population] will be nice.”

This year is the first year the BDCRA will run the tennis program. Baty said the program is her brainchild. She reached out to a professor she had in college for guidance on starting it. He directed her to recreational therapists who work exclusively with the special population. They helped her form a foundation for the program and recommended tennis as the sport to do it with.

“This program is my baby,” Baty said. “I’m nervous, but I’m excited. I always say I’m ‘nervcited.’ 

Baty said The recreational therapists recommended tennis because it is an individual sport. It can be difficult for children with special needs to get the most out of team sports due to their disabilities, according to Baty. According to Baty, tennis can be adapted on a case-to-case basis, making it the perfect sport to host a diverse group of children with specific needs. 

“Everybody can still play, no matter where they lie disability-wise,” Baty said.

The program will focus on more than just developing tennis skills. Baty said the program will serve as a place of social interaction for the children. She said she wants to give the children in the program a chance at socialization outside of therapy. 

BDCRA tennis pro Mark Gonzales will be assisting Baty at the camp. She said she’s also looking to have high school students help out as volunteers. She wants to create a buddy system between the volunteers and children to give the children dedicated attention. 

“Children with special needs need a lot more individual focus,” Baty said. “It’s going to require a lot more hands on deck, but it’ll be worth it.”