SMASHING STEREOTYPES AND SWINGING FOR DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION!
Gavin Wong and Konhee Lee's debut at the National Adaptive Tournament was truly a celebration of youth, skill, and inclusion! At 11 and 14 years old, the Serving Advantage doubles team entered as the youngest pair amidst adaptive athletes and Unified Partners spanning an age range of 25 to 60+ years old. The presence of a seasoned 61-year-old adaptive athlete most definitely added a touch of tennis legacy to this very special event! From the beginning, Gavin and Konhee captivated everyone with their remarkable hearts, unwavering commitment, incredible teamwork, and court charisma.
Despite the 3 hour time difference, the duo had a dedicated and disciplined routine, starting each day with a 7:00 AM breakfast, followed by a drive to the National Campus where they were on court warming up by 8:00 AM. The tournament fun kicked off with Friday's tournament registration, team introductions, and friendly tennis games, followed by a relaxed evening hitting golf balls at Drive Shaft alongside the other 24 teams.
Tournament play began Saturday morning, dividing the 25 teams into 5 round robin groups of 5 teams.The first day of competitive play brought its challenges with acclimating to the time change, intermittent rain, and facing physically imposing adult competitors. Our team played hard and gave it their best efforts! The night was spent in awe, enjoying a rooftop dinner at the USTA Campus, surrounded by 360-degree tennis court views and the serenity of the lakes. And, as young academic students, our players topped off their night with…homework and studying at the hotel.
Gavin and Konhee started Sunday with determination. Finding their rhythm and working as a cohesive team, they secured victories in 2 out of 4 matches. The awards ceremony highlighted their efforts with a special recognition award for being the youngest competitors, while also acknowledging their commitment to creating inclusion and belonging within the sport of tennis at such a young age. The National Adaptive Tournament left an everlasting impact, filled with incredible memories and genuine connections. The tournament was not just a competition but a celebration of tennis, camaraderie, and the power of community. We are excited for what lies ahead and anticipate participating in many more adaptive tournaments as we carry the spirit of this remarkable experience forward. We would like to give a heartfelt shout out to the USTA National office. The event was well organized and filled with special moments and fun for all participants. We couldn’t ask for a better first time experience at Nationals!
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the assistance of our Serving Advantage families. A special thank you goes to all the generous donors for making our Smash it to National Fundraising drive an immense success! Our initial goal of $5,000 was not only met, but exceeded by an additional $1,000! Thanks to your contributions and active participation at the Serving Advantage OC Wine Mart nights and our Chipotle event, your support covered all expenses for players, parents, and coach, and the surplus will play a crucial role in launching our new Irvine program in January 2024. Your generosity has not only fueled our current achievements, but promises a brighter future for our athletes, Doubles Partners, and Coaches! We extend our deepest gratitude for your unwavering commitment to the organization and our mission.