Binghamton University Men's Tennis Continues To Reach Beyond The Tennis CourtPosted: Updated:
Binghamton, N.Y. - The effects sports has on a community goes deeper than just the numbers or winning a game. The days teams spend making a difference in someone's life has the ability to have a bigger impact than the amount of games they win. Since 2017, Binghamton Men's Tennis and CreateABLE has been giving back to the local community in numerous ways. Making a difference in the lives of individuals with special needs. Now, those positive differences will only continue to grow.
"They're giving back to people and it's really nice that they are" said Mather Stover-ling, who in 2017 became the newest member to the Bearcats program, through the "Fair Play Tennis" program.
"Do it with mentors. Do it with people to look up to like the Binghamton's Men's tennis team. These are young men who have worked very hard to get to this point in their collegiate years and they have something to give" said CreateABLE Executive Director Jennifer O'Brien.
In 2017, the BU Men's tennis team teamed up with CreateABLE, a local organization that has been supporting individuals with special needs for more than a decade. Head coach Nick Zieziula and CreateABLE executive Director Jennifer O'Brien brought "Fair Play Tennis" to the local community last year and now in 2018 they continue to expand the program. The "Fair Play Tennis" program consists of 12 sessions at the Bearcats Tennis Complex. In each one-hour "Try It" session, the participants will practice skills through drills and friendly games - all under the themed umbrella of "inspiring teammates and encouraging participation." Now, although these sessions are geared towards individuals with special needs, the program also encourages their friends and siblings to join in on the fun and the learning experience as well.
"This particular group of men have really worked hard on their love for the sport. Being part of the Binghamton community and the Bearcat community" said CreateABLE Executive Director Jennifer O'Brien
"They had to do some work together and they stayed committed. They have worked so hard to get to where we need to be. Where we need to be is where we are right now."
In the beginning of September, the Unites States Tennis Association (USTA) Eastern Section gave a $6,000 grant to "Fair Play Tennis." The grant was a collaboration between head coach Nick Zieziula and CreateABLE which will allow them to continuously grow the program to the local community. The grant will allow the Bearcats to broaden their reach within Broome County and share their tennis talents and experience with more individuals. Specifically, the money will allow them to provide a wider variety of adaptive equipment and give them more opportunities to spread the word and introduce more people to the game of tennis.
Nick Zieziula decided to get his team involved in this program, not only to give back to the community, but also in hopes that it would help them grow as individuals and more importantly as a team.
"When you see some of the difficulties that maybe other people are facing it puts things into perspective for you a little bit" said Zieziula
"it's not always necessarily easy to come up with a game plan out on court during these sessions, so the guys have to work together and game plan. It's a learning experience for everyone involved."
"It's an opportunity that has really allowed us to grow, I think" said Ludovico Cestarollo
"It makes us think a lot as individuals and as a team. But, these kids like to have fun and get to know more about the sport."
Someone who has been eager to learn more about the sport is Mather Stover-Ling. Mather has Spina Bifida and has been part of the Bearcats team since 2017 when they signed him through the "Fair Play Tennis" program. A year later and he feels that he's already at his best when it comes to playing tennis.
"I like practicing fore hand, back hand" said Mather.
"I have much more control over the ball than I ever have."
"This mission at the athletic department is to build people beyond the court and beyond the classroom. Through programs like this."
CreateABLE is a program created by Life is Washable, Inc., which was founded in 2006 with its signature program, "The Magic Paintbrush Project." The organization provides the tools, materials and opportunity for families to creatively serve an average of 4,750 participants each year. The program has been supported to date by the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation.