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Veterans serving up inspiration playing wheelchair tennis

Wheelchair tennis
Posted at 9:23 AM, May 31, 2021

TAMPA — There isn’t one volley or one challenge army veteran Bill Hannigan is afraid to meet head on.

Hannigan is among a group of adaptive athletes, many of them veterans, proving that no sport is out of their reach. Twice a week they can be found playing wheelchair tennis.

“It helps you focus on what you can still do and not what you lost,” said Hannigan.

“You know the first thing is, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I lost the ability to do this,’ and then you come out and start playing a sport and you’re like, ‘oh wow I can still do this.’”

The City of Tampa’s Parks and Recreations Department hosts free tennis lessons every week.

“When I was introduced to wheelchair sports it was like I was a kid again,” said Doyle Mann.

It’s not enough just to show up, these players want to compete and they want to win.

“I never think about being in a wheelchair or being handicapped, I know I am and all that, but there is nothing I can’t do,” said army veteran Dennis Mason.

Tennis isn’t often thought of as a team sport, but this group will be the first to tell you, they are in this thing together.

“It’s easy when you have been doing it as long as I have, to see the little things, that you can shoot little pointers out to them and to see them pick it up and go is very rewarding,” said Mann.

It’s just like regular tennis only these players get one extra bounce.

They are always looking to add to their roster. They even provide the equipment for new players looking to give their backhand a try this summer.

“Most of the recruiting comes like if I’m in Walmart and I see someone in a wheelchair or someone walking with a cane I’ll say, ‘hey there is an opportunity to play wheelchair tennis, come on out,’” said Hannigan.

For more information about participating, email Hannigan directly at hannigan@ustaflorida.com.