A sport that was only available to the richest members of society in Uganda back in the 1960s, tennis has become more popular professionally and recreationally speaking for middle-class individuals to enjoy.
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In mid-December 2019, Uganda hosted its first wheelchair tennis event. It was the start of great changes in Uganda’s tennis culture including initiatives for handicapped talent interested in the sport. Thanks to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Uganda Tennis Association (UTA) received wheelchair donations for the participating players.
The project continuation was put off for a couple of years and has since then been re-initiated.
In November 2022, UTA held different training sessions for wheelchair tennis coaches from the Lugogo Tennis Complex in Kampala. They trained the coaches so they can professionally and proficiently teach the wheelchair tennis teams the rules of play and techniques for navigating the court as wheelchair-bound players.
UTA partnered with the Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped (KSPH) to begin their first team of wheelchair tennis players. Lawrence Karanja spearheaded these training sessions to be sure everyone was on track.
The local tennis association plans to eventually form junior teams. The entity also plans to work with other schools for handicapped individuals to further spread the social initiative of making the game available for players of all physical orientations.
UTA has published a strategic plan for their wheelchair tennis initiative for 2022 to 2027. The written plan outlines how they will include people from different organizations that serve disabled individuals throughout Uganda to spread the social initiative.
The ITF and UTA will continue to work closely together to enhance tennis availability for disabled and handicapped talent. Their other partnerships will include the Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Paralympic Committee, and the Ministry for Persons With Disabilities.
The UTA has done more than introduce wheelchair tennis as an initiative to change the dynamic of one of the most popular sports in the nation. There are also competitions for children 12 and under hosted during the year to foster their skill and love of tennis.
Professional teen and adult players participate in J30 and other international tennis tournaments to test their tennis prowess against other professionals worldwide. In affiliation with the International Tennis Federation, Uganda is the host nation for the J30 Kampala 2023 Tennis Tournament.
Here are answers to your frequently asked questions about the introduction of wheelchair tennis in Uganda.
Karanja stated wheelchair tennis has been prominent for the past three decades. There are already leagues for the specialized sport in other African countries such as Eritrea and Kenya.
Wheelchair tennis is played on the same-sized court, matching height for the nets, and identical tennis racket measurements. Hence, the setup and rules for the game are mainly the same except for the two-bounce rule.
Wheelchair tennis players are allowed two bounces of the ball before they have to pass it back to their opponent. In contrast, non-wheelchair-bound tennis players are only allowed one ball bounce before it must be passed back to their opponent.
There is more to come as teams are finalized for wheelchair tennis competitions in Uganda. Check back for updates!