On Saturday, July 20, 23 teams of doubles participated in Wisconsin’s inaugural Unified doubles tournament. The event, taking place at the Lake Geneva Tennis Club, was the first Unified tennis tournament in SOWI history.
While there have been many tennis tournaments across Wisconsin for Special Olympics, there has never been one quite like this before. In this Unified tournament, one athlete with intellectual disabilities paired up with a partner without intellectual disabilities to play doubles tennis. The 23 teams originated from Walworth County, Milwaukee, and Madison.
“The first Unified Tennis Tournament at the Lake Geneva Tennis Club was a ‘smashing’ success.” Kathleen Roach, President & CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin
Playing unified is another way in which Special Olympics aims to promote inclusion. Not only are the athletes competing together, but they are creating lasting friendships through Unified sports.
“The first Unified tennis tournament at the Lake Geneva Tennis Club was a ‘smashing’ success,” according to Special Olympics Wisconsin President & CEO Kathleen Roach, who also competed in the event. “People with and without intellectual disabilities came together to play doubles and have fun. This was a dream of Betty Aguirre’s, agency manager for Walworth County, and I was thrilled to participate and see her dream come true.”
Of the 23 teams at the tournament, there were 15 new teams that participated in a round-robin tournament. The main purpose of the tournament was to have fun and be active. At the end of the tournament day, eight advanced teams played a competitive format of the tournament, finishing with a champion team crowned.
“The first ever Unified doubles tennis tournament was a huge success. The partnership between Special Olympics Wisconsin and the Lake Geneva Tennis Club is a mutually beneficial relationship that will allow our athletes to experience tennis and inclusion in one of the premier tennis facilities in the state,” said Don Wigington, Special Olympics Wisconsin vice president of sports and health programs.
This year’s inaugural tournament was a success and is only the beginning of future tournaments with the Lake Geneva Tennis Club. The event ran smoothly with the help of volunteers, and the Lake Geneva fire and police departments. Next year, SOWI aspires to have even more athletes participate from other parts of Wisconsin to experience this inclusive and unified tournament.