Blind Tennis Comes to Brockport, Educating Players New and Old

BROCKPORT, NY – The United States Blind Tennis Association (USBTA) hosted a training clinic at SUNY Brockport in conjunction with their Adapted Physical Education program for students, educators, tennis instructors, and community members on Friday, April 26.  

Tennis is the latest addition to Camp Abilities Brockport, a week-long summer camp for kids and teens who are blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind. Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D., is a professor of Adapted Physical Education at SUNY Brockport and started Camp Abilities Brockport in 1996, since opening camps in nearly 30 locations. 

“Blind tennis is growing and it’s likely to grow and be a Paralympic sport. I think it’s a hard sport to teach, but I think it gives kids another opportunity,” said Lieberman, enthusiastic about adding it to the curriculum. 

The blind tennis basics consist of a downsized court, a ball containing ball bearings to create sound when hit and bounced, compact swings, and tactile lines for those with zero to slight light visibility 

While the ball does make sounds upon contact, it is silent during flight, making it difficult to predict and track the location. USBTA Vice President, Jennifer Roth, Ph.D., is working to change that with a tennis ball that makes continuous noise using different sounds for when contact is made. 

The group spent the first two hours acclimating themselves with a loss of sight, the court, racquet, and ball. Everyone was shown how to evaluate, assist, and direct the movement of visually impaired individuals, while learning the game themselves 

I think honestly the most difficult part was the orientation. Once I was facing the right direction, I was able to not necessarily hit the ball over the net, but I was able to know where it was and hit it,” said Corning tennis player Cora McNeil.  

McNeil is working with her coach to create an adaptive tennis program, adding to their existing camps this summer. “I don’t know if we have any blind athletes, but knowing how to help people and when to not help them will be important,” said McNeil.  

The USBTA instructors emphasized giving athletes respect and not assuming they need help with something or the way in which they like to receive assistance. All athletes must learn from trial and error with the freedom to do things on their own. 

Brynn Wright, a high school student from Ottawa, Ontario, has never played the sport but will be a Camp Abilities Coach this summer, having a strong connection to the individuals the camp serves.  

“Sighted tennis is so different than blind tennis that even people who don’t know how to play tennis can do it. It levels the playing field,” said Wright.  

And I found that I learned not just how to assist with sports, but with blind and deaf people in general, which is really useful for me because my mom is deaf-blind.” 

David Dilettuso, a founding member of the USBTA, highlighted the routes being taken to expand the game in the US. It is led by grassroots programs, the introduction of tennis in state-run schools for the blind across the country, and widespread visibility.  

“Most people just don’t, pun intended, envision that anyone blind could play tennis. So just the general knowledge that it does exist, that the opportunity exists,” said Dilettuso. “And then from there, where are the resources that they could learn to play the game. 

Camp Abilities is open to youth from across the United States and around the world. If you would like to register for the camp or volunteer, visit 

The United States Blind Tennis Association is based in Pittsburgh, PA. To learn more about their initiatives and programs visit 

The author of this article is a wheelchair tennis instructor for Greater Buffalo Adaptive Sports (GBAS) and attended the clinic with Adapted Physical Education teacher and GBAS volunteer, Rachel Mezzoni.  


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