A tennis network stretching throughout Germany
"Wheelchair tennis - tennis on foot - partners for the future" is the motto of the German wheelchair tennis association (DRT). Tennis has been successfully opened up to wheelchair users and its integration in existing clubs has been promoted.
The numerous "wheelchair tennis shows" held throughout Germany prove the growing popularity of wheelchair tennis. The opening of Düsseldorf's Rochus club's tennis courts to wheelchair users in 1999 was a clear sign for the future of the German wheelchair tennis association (DRT). Until then, the sole objective had been to promote wheelchair tennis as a competitive sport. However, before you can find competitive sportspeople, there must be a healthy base. In other words, a sufficient number of players wishing to make a "competitive hobby" out of their leisure pursuit. The President of the DRT, Regina Isecke, a former competitive sportswoman, quickly recognized this fact and, together with the DRT Committee, decided to set up a tennis "network" covering all of Germany to give every wheelchair tennis player an opportunity to train locally with "able-bodied friends". This can only be achieved by means of ongoing campaigns, appeals to tennis associations, tennis clubs and leisure facilities to open their doors to wheelchair tennis. The Düsseldorf example has been copied throughout Germany.
Active participation required
It has now become "normal" for able-bodied tennis clubs to provide athletes for the DRT and integrate them in the day-to-day life of the sport. The DRT's motto of Tennis in a wheelchair - tennis on foot - partners for the "future" has borne fruit. The fact that the DRT has made a considerable contribution to the social upturn in this sport for the disabled cannot be disputed. "We need to get out and encourage associations to play an active role in their local areas," states Regina Isecke with conviction. She often tours with other athletes to present shows and play in prominent matches to help to raise interest in wheelchair tennis. One example is the wheelchair tennis show and taster course at TC Blau-Weiss in Harpen/Westphalia, which she attended with the junior player Nora Sommerfeld. The last of the ice was broken at the subsequent show match with Peter Neurure from VfL Bochum: enthusiastic spectators, many promising a commitment for the future.
New sports centre
Many people are also expected to follow with interest the appointment of the first "DRT sports centre". This title will be awarded to tennis centers which meet various criteria allowing them to qualify as an official German wheelchair tennis association sports center. We are well aware that in associations, most work falls to a few voluntary staff. However, we hope, and are optimistic, that our work will be convincing enough to make wheelchair tennis part of every tennis club, even if this means a little more work for the individual associations. "The DRT will support the initial stages of the work and its progress as far as possible," stated Regina Isecke.
This will create strong foundations to attract dedicated and professional wheelchair tennis players in the future and to discover and foster new talent. Wheelchair tennis is attracting a growing number of followers, which bodes well for the future, since enjoyment of this sport played in whites knows no hurdles or barriers! This is also illustrated by the DRT initiative to allow players to "play tennis round the corner". The DRT ran an extensive advertising campaign to encourage tennis clubs, associations and sports facilities to open their doors to wheelchair tennis. Some sports fans of the highest order have become involved with the DRT: In 1998, the German Foreign Minister at the time, Dr. Klaus Kinkel, became patron of the German championships, followed in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 by the Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, both enthusiastic tennis players with a keen interest in wheelchair tennis. For the last four years, the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Otto Schily, has been patron of the major international tournament, the "ARAG German Open", held in Essen every year at the end of September, and has donated a prize. Last year, the German Foreign Secretary, Dr. Klaus Kinkel and the president of the Niederrhein tennis association, Gerhard Nölle, were appointed as the first honorary members in recognition of their special contribution to wheelchair tennis in Germany.
Details of the latest events in Germany and internationally, weekly world rankings and much more can be found on our website. The DRT issues a monthly newsletter, which can be requested from our offices, containing news and information about national and international wheelchair tennis.
Sources: Deutscher Rollstuhltennis-Verband, Deutscher Rollstuhlsportverband