Tennis Lessons Give Special Needs Students the Advantage

Oct 04, 2017

It was a perfect early autumn afternoon with blue skies, a warm yellow sun and a slight breeze when more than a dozen Southern Regional special needs students stepped onto the tennis courts at the LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. There was a feeling, though, that even if the weather hadn’t cooperated it would have been a good day, what with a visit to the beach, a trip to Ol’ Barney and pizza before the tennis lesson.

“I think this is awesome,” said Justice, who had already walked to the top of the 217-step Barnegat Light Lighthouse earlier in the day. “It’s really cool.”

Justice was one of more than a dozen Southern Regional special needs students who spent part of their day learning to play tennis with the Foundation’s pros, Jeff Shrager and Brent Chaffee. The annual event is made possible by the Mike Sandler Fund, which is supported by Foundation members.

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been here,” he said as his classmates volleyed a small bean bag back and forth with a partner. “I am a pro now.”

Elaine Triano, a Southern Regional special education teacher, said the event is great for the students who “are really successful out there. They really like it.”

“It’s amazing,” Ann, another student, said, giving it a double thumbs up before heading off to participate in the pancake drill where students are divided into two small groups and work together to carry three levels of tennis rackets and balls to the net and back to the baseline without dropping anything. “The guys are nice, and I watch tennis on TV now and pay attention to how to get the ball back in the game.”

The students participate in several different drills to help them learn the game of tennis. Each drill lasts about 15 minutes, according to Alison Bozoski, programming and camp coordinator for the Foundation.

“I think I like tennis,” Adam said as he stepped to the side of the court for a respite.

The annual event began under Foundation tennis member Mike Sandler, Bozoski said. When he passed away, provisions were made under the Mike Sandler Fund to continue it.

“It’s cool,” she said. “You see familiar faces and you see new ones, too. We try to do this twice a year and had one in April.”

Earlier in the day, Bozoski hosted more than two dozen Pinelands Regional special needs students for their tennis day adventure.

Gina G. Scala

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