Michigan State’s Wheelchair Tennis Program Builds A Following

Mar 14, 2019

The adaptive sports program added tennis five years ago and has become one of the best in the country.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Gene Orlando took over as coach for the wheelchair tennis team 28 years ago, the same time he became head coach for the Michigan State men’s tennis team.

In comparison to all the other adaptive sports offered at MSU, wheelchair tennis is the most competitive - according to Piotr Pasik, MSU’s director of Adaptive Sports.

Credit Samantha Basirico

Wheelchair tennis was added to the MSU Adaptive Sports program in Dec. 2014. Since then, they have held 99 wheelchair tennis practices, accounting for 195 hours on court. The team meets for two-hour practices on the first and third Tuesday of every month.

“These practices were attended by 52 athletes with physical disabilities for a combined attendance of 761. In total, MSU Wheelchair Tennis practices have supported 1,509 hours of physical activity for this population,” said Pasik.

Volunteers and interns from Michigan State also come to the practices to participate and help the athletes play tennis.

“Every August we do our Wheelchair Tennis Spartan Showdown Tournament, and then the last two years I've traveled to USTA Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis Nationals to represent MSU,” Pasik said. “The last two years I was the only one there from our school but this year we are taking a team of 4 athletes so that is significant growth.”

The wheelchair tennis team is not only open to MSU students, but also to the public.

“We got quite a few players that are from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids that drive in to participate and play in an organized practice,” said Orlando, who was awarded the 2017 USTA Brad Parks Award for his commitment to the wheelchair tennis program.

WKAR Current Sports takes a look at MSU’s the Wheelchair Tennis program