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Lynn Bender: Haitian Sensation

Tennis in Haiti
May 18, 2015 03:33 PM
Tennis in Haiti
Tennis in Haiti
Tennis in Haiti


Lynn Bender: The Haitian Sensation

Midwest Section volunteer and Wheelchair Tennis sub-committee Vice-chair Lynn Bender has 15 years of experience teaching tennis, and helping lead and coordinate tennis programming including running a local Wheelchair Tennis program and an International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament.  Although she has extensive experience, she is continually looking for the next challenge.  In fact – she says to herself she should “never settle for being average.”

Knowing that she was ready to again challenge herself and do something “outside her comfort zone”, Lynn decided to accept the invitation from the ITF to travel to Haiti with the mission of exploring what tennis opportunities currently exist and what needs there may be, especially in the area of Wheelchair Tennis - her specialty.

Lynn spent seven days in Haiti just last month (April) and says it was an experience of a lifetime.  The week began in Port-au-Prince at a local outpatient rehabilitation center that services all types of individuals; stroke patients, amputees, children, and many others.  Working with both Occupational and Physical Therapists, Lynn was able to provide training and education on how tennis, Wheelchair Tennis, and other wheelchair sports, can be used as a means of therapy for these individuals.  She also was able to provide tennis equipment for the facility.

Lynn then visited a school that services young children with both physical and cognitive disabilities.  Of course most of the children had never even picked up a tennis racquet!  The school recently implemented a new curriculum that includes various adapted Physical Education programs that are part of the daily routine. 

“I was able to spend valuable time with the teacher and provide a tennis overview and basic tips and tools,” said Lynn.  “We also discussed different ways to bring more creativity into the PE program.” 

On day three, Lynn visited the Haiti Olympic Training Center in Port-au-Prince, what she describes as a “beautiful, two-year-old facility with basketball and volleyball courts, as well as three tennis courts.”  While there, Lynn led a class for 25 kids that were visiting as part of a school community program.  She also met with the CEO and the sports staff to discuss the possibility of hosting a wheelchair sports camp and other activities for wheelchair users.

“Wheelchair accessibility laws are not on the forefront for most Haitians,” said Lynn.  Because of this, she focused some of the discussion on this issue.  “I informed them of the different opportunities for integration and how to continue to make their site more accessible as they consider future expansions and programming.”

The second half of the week Lynn journeyed to Cap Haitian where she volunteered at a physical rehabilitation hospital called “Healing Hands of Haiti”.  The hospital features a rehab sports center gym with a multi-sport court which includes a tennis court and basketball courts.

“Wheelchair basketball is more common in Haiti so my goal was to introduce them to the benefits of Wheelchair Tennis,” said Lynn.  “I worked for three days educating the sports staff, teaching them tennis – how to play, score, rally, how to play some run/roll doubles, and demonstrate how easy it is to integrate individuals who use wheelchairs.”

The success was evident, especially in two gentlemen who showed dramatic improvement in just a short time.

“I worked with two men who improved so much in three short days, and it was amazing to see their progress with just some basic education and training,” said Lynn.

On the last day, a tennis festival took place that served to kick-off a large tennis event that would take place that weekend.  During the festival, a demonstration of Wheelchair tennis took place for over 200 people, both children and adults.

“We incorporated a run/roll demonstration which was amazing!  It helped them see that athletes in wheelchairs have potential and opportunities to play tennis just like all of us.  It was a remarkable opportunity and the exposure this event gave us was incredible,” said Lynn.

Lynn acknowledges that she was lucky to be given this opportunity and is thankful for all the support she received, including those who donated racquets, balls, mini nets and other equipment.  She was able to leave behind these resources so that tennis can continue.

Reflecting back on her experience, Lynn says she “challenges everyone to think outside their box” and to find new, exciting and innovative ways to share their talent and passion for the game with others.

“There are so many ways we can share the love of tennis with others around the world by what we do and the opportunities we are given,” she said.  “So get out and share your love of the game with someone near you.  Seek out new opportunities and dive in!  You won’t regret it!”