The South Shore YMCA’s Lob-Stars adaptive tennis players, coaches and volunteers were celebrated on Monday, September 2, at the USTA’s National Convention in New York City with the organization’s prestigious 2019 USTA National Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award. The USTA annually bestows this recognition upon a program or program leader that has demonstrated continued excellence, dedication and service in tennis for an adaptive tennis community.
The annual Adaptive Tennis Award recognizes a program that has demonstrated continued excellence, dedication and service in tennis for individuals with disabilities. The first such award by the USTA was presented to Eunice Shriver in 2003 for her development of Special Olympics.
The Lob-Stars program has been running for 22 years at the South Shore YMCA’s Emilson Branch in Hanover, Massachusetts. The Lob-Stars are the South Shore YMCA’s Special Olympics Tennis Team, providing an inclusive tennis program for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, with a focus on the strengths and abilities of each individual athlete. The program ensures all athletes are welcomed and there is no limit to the number of athletes who can participate. Currently, the participating athletes are between the ages of 14 to late 60s, and range from beginners to advanced, (1.0-3.5). The Lob-Stars program serves between 20-30 athletes each year, and they regularly meet 1-2 days a week for practice plus tournaments throughout the year.
“Our adaptive inclusion program in total within the South Shore YMCA services about 700 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and our flagship program is our Lob-Stars program,” said Paul Gorman, President and CEO of the South Shore YMCA. “The Lob-Stars are athletes, and they’re no different from anyone else who enters the Y.”
“Locally, there has been a revitalization of adaptive tennis,” said Lob-Stars Coach and Tennis Pro Martha Long-DiGregorio. “Nearly two decades ago now, people were looking for training for the Special Olympics Summer Games. These players practiced tennis at the South Shore YMCA, and as they became more skilled, the program grew into the Lob-Stars team. To this day, new athletes continue to join and participate not only for the exercise and practice, but for the team camaraderie as well.”
“The Lob-Stars program is absolutely wonderful,” shared one parent of a Lob-Stars team member. “Tennis has become a huge part of my son’s life because of these coaches. This group is more like a family to my son. In the 5 years, he has been playing tennis he has improved greatly, not only in tennis but in his life and social skills. This program has opened up opportunities that many of the participants would never have.”
The award was presented during the USTA’s Semi-Annual Meeting and Conference, which brings together USTA Leadership, national staff, national committee members and section volunteers and staff in pursuit of the USTA mission: To promote and develop the growth of tennis. Along with leadership and committee meetings, the USTA Semi-Annual Meeting provides education opportunities for all attendees to develop and enhance their personal and professional skills and learn new ways to promote the game of tennis.
Announcing this year’s USTA National Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award was retired American tennis player Chandra Rubin. Winning seven WTA Tour singles titles, Rubin reached her highest ranking of world No. 6 in 1996, after reaching the semifinals at the 1996 Australian Open. Rubin achieved a career-high ranking of No. 9 in doubles, winning the Australian Open in 1996 with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. She is also a three-time Grand Slam singles quarterfinalist, having reached that stage at the French Open in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
“Create opportunities for those differently enabled. An athlete is an athlete is an athlete,” said Rubin. “Running, serving, improving sportsmanship, traveling to tournaments and being with friends, and the Lob-Stars program in Hanover, Massachusetts, it’s just doing it, plain and simple, like any other athletic program. Yeah you heard me, the Lob- STARS, isn’t that just the best name ever?”
Among those on hand to receive the USTA’s award were several members of the Lob-Stars team, their families and friends, and South Shore YMCA CEO and President Paul Gorman. After being called up to the stage, the Lob-Stars players and coaches were presented with the honor by USTA President Peter Galbraith.
“We’re thrilled to honor Lob-Stars and its remarkable team for their outstanding dedication and commitment to their athletes,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “The Lob-Stars have done an extraordinary job creating a program where inclusion is at the forefront, teaching their athletes skills that will help them succeed on and off the court.”
“We’ve got great athletes, great coaches, we go on great trips – why wouldn’t you want to be involved?” added Volunteer Lob-Stars Coach James Lawson.
“We’re being invited to more and more tournaments and our players are receiving more and more awards every year, which is a really exciting experience for our team members,” said Lob-Stars Coach Lucy Dickman. “The team gets to travel, exposing them to meeting new people all over the world. Because of Tennis, they have friends they see all over the country, year after year. We wouldn’t even have this award if it wasn’t for the phenomenal athletes and parents, and we’re very proud.”
“The Y’s doors are open to all,” said Bob Carroll, Senior Director of Tennis at the South Shore YMCA. “The South Shore YMCA is a tight-knit community that supports programs and services for individuals living with intellectual or developmental disabilities, so that everyone in our community can truly belong.”
To learn more about the Lob-Stars, contact Bob Carroll, Senior Tennis Director, at email@example.com or 781-829-8585 ext. 8229.
Images and video courtesy USTA.
About the South Shore YMCA
The South Shore YMCA is a not-for-profit association of individuals dedicated to improving the quality of life for all through programs that promote healthy spirit, mind, and body. Serving the communities of Quincy, Randolph, Holbrook, Weymouth, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Scituate, Norwell, Hanover and beyond, the South Shore Y provides the opportunity to grow, learn, and thrive through its services and programs. Financial Assistance is a Y community benefit available to all families in need, applicable to all Y programs and services. To learn more about the South Shore YMCA, visit www.ssymca.org. The South Shore YMCA. The Better You Belongs Here.
About the USTA
The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game. A not-for-profit organization with more than 655,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game. It owns and operates the US Open, one of the highest-attended annual sporting events in the world, and launched the US Open Series, linking seven summer WTA and ATP World Tour tournaments to the US Open. In addition, it owns approximately 90 Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S. and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games. The USTA’s philanthropic entity, the USTA Foundation, provides grants and scholarships in addition to supporting tennis and education programs nationwide to benefit under-resourced youth through the National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network. For more information about the USTA, go to USTA.com or follow the official accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.