August 23, 2012
By Ryan O'Keefe
|Match Point Tennis Participants (Photo Courtesy Rovo)|
5 years and going strong the Match Point Tennis Tournament in Houston is a perfect example of living and playing unified.
Kim and Don Richards have found a way to bring a real awareness to the athletes in Special Olympics Texas by pairing them up with a Unified partner during a 2-day tennis tournament. The tournament, which has 26 athletes and 26 unified partners, is played indoors at the Galleria Tennis and Athletic Club in Houston. It’s something that has grown over the years and has attracted participants from Louisiana and Georgia.
“It’s more about the fun, than about the competition,” says Kim Richards. “We really strive on the fun and the building of social skills, but over the past year we’ve seen the level of competition grow.”
It’s all about building upon those relationships. The first day before competition begins there is a “Thank You” party where the unified partners gather to find out who their playing partner will be. That’s right - they don’t know who they will be paired up with until they get to the party. Then it’s like the “Oscars”, where each unified partner receives an envelope that contains the name and bio of their athlete playing partner. That’s when they begin to form the relationship and get to know each other a little bit better.
This year unified partners ranged from high school seniors to tennis players in their late 70s. It’s that range that creates a really inclusive environment where everyone is learning and having fun playing tennis.
Of course all this wouldn’t be possible without the help of GTAC (Galleria Tennis and Athletic Club), Special Olympics Texas coach Cyndi Benson and Houston Area Director Renee Klovenski.
What’s in store for Match Point Tournament in the future? Maybe a regional tournament in the Arkansas/Texas area, but there’s no timetable set. Right now, Kim and Don are having a blast putting this on every year.
“If I won the lottery, I would do Match Point Tournaments all over the place. I just love doing this tournament,” says Kim Richards.
To see more pictures and learn more about Match Point Tennis Tournament go to Kim and Don Richards Family Foundation website.