SAN DIEGO (April 23, 2010) – Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Adelquin Torres practices her tennis swing with James Felder, a volunteer tennis coach, during a Naval Medical Center San Diego Balboa Warrior Athlete Program tennis clinic hosted by the Balboa Tennis Club. The tennis clinic is hosted twice a month and taught by several military retired members who are tennis enthusiasts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anastasia Puscian/Released)
SAN DIEGO (April 23, 2010) – Wounded, Ill and Injured service members assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, practice their tennis swing with volunteer tennis coaches during a Balboa Warrior Athlete Program tennis clinic hosted by the Balboa Tennis Club. The tennis clinic is hosted twice a month and taught by several military retired members who are tennis enthusiasts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anastasia Puscian/Released)
By Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (APRIL 23, 2010) – Naval Medical Center San Diego’s Balboa Warrior Athlete Program (BWAP) along with the Health and Wellness department and professional volunteers, offer tennis as recreational and sports therapy for wounded, ill and injured patients.
Participating patients are in various stages of recovery from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as various other accidents or illnesses. According to Marla Knox, a recreation therapist for BWAP, tennis has become one of the more popular forms of sports-related therapy.
“We have seen a tremendous growth in the number of patients attending this bi-monthly program,” said Knox. “The pros and volunteers are great with the patients. They are able to break down various drills so that everyone feels some sense of success and accomplishment. Several patients have enjoyed playing so much that they have purchased their own racquets and are receiving more personalized instruction from a dedicated volunteer on a weekly basis.”
At a recent clinic, 18 patients from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force spent 90 minutes rotating among three courts, receiving instruction and participating in game-based drills using a variety of equipment including transition balls.
Geoff Griffin, United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) professional and Tennis Director at the Balboa Tennis Club, started the free clinics in November 2009. USPTA pros Steve Kappes and Shelley Susman have helped run the clinics with Griffin and other accomplished player-volunteers from the community.
“As a pro, these clinics really test one’s creativity since the range of injuries is diverse,” said Kappes, a retired naval officer. “Some players have lost limbs and use chairs or prostheses, but others are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injuries, which are not as easy for the pros to recognize.”
Despite these challenges, all the players have shown remarkable determination and positive attitudes during the clinics, which are filled with a lot of cheering, encouragement and laughter from the players and pros alike. Army Spc. Michael Ortiz has attended three tennis clinics, but was initially hesitant to participate.
“I am not the kind of guy who plays tennis. It surprised me that it was challenging while being fun at the same time,” said Ortiz. “It helped me to interact with people I did not know. They [the professional volunteer coaches] provided a safe environment which helped me not to be hyper-vigilant. I also sleep better at night when I get exercise.”
The tennis clinics have helped to improve the day to day functioning and coping skills of the participants.
“Therapeutically, tennis has helped our ill, injured and wounded service members work on eye-hand coordination, balance, endurance, ability to transfer weight, etc.,” said Knox. “Besides the physical benefits, tennis enables the patients to learn a new sport, promotes socialization, decreases stress and anxiety, and helps with re-integration into the community. I hope it is an activity they will continue to play individually, with friends and family post-discharge.”
Marine Cpl. Povas Mikniatis is one of the patients who enjoyed playing so much that he went out and purchased two tennis racquets; one for him and the other for a fellow Marine who also attends the bi-monthly clinics and weekly lessons. “I want to get better at the game so I can play with friends back home in Illinois,” said Mikniatis. Another motivating factor for Mikniatis is that “a lot of cute girls play tennis.”
If you are a beneficiary interested in participating in the tennis clinics, contact BWAP at: (619) 532-7764.
For more information on BWAP/NMCSD, visit: http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Pages/default.aspx