Visit any college campus on a Friday night and you're bound to see a lot of things. But one site that's not common is college students entrenched in community service.
Yet that's exactly what happened last Friday night on the University of Delaware campus when the Blue Hen men's and women's teams treated 18 Special Olympics Delaware tennis players to a night of instruction and fun.
"It was neat to see the college players interact with our athletes," said Mary Moore, SODE tennis director and head coach at Ursuline Academy. "You could hear them all speaking the same language - tennis."
As the college and high school tennis seasons wind down, the 18 SODE players are preparing for their own tournament, which will be held June 11 and 12 as part of the organization's annual Summer Games. Ironically, they will play on the exact same courts where the clinic took place.
"We didn't do it intentionally, but one of the nice things about having the tennis clinic at UD is that it gives the athletes a chance to practice on the courts they will be competing on," SODE director of training Mark Wise said. "Most of them don't play at a facility with this many courts, so it's nice the athletes got to see the enormity of this place before their shots really do count."
UD coach Laura Travis' first experience with Special Olympics came as a volunteer in the late 1980s when she was enrolled in an Adaptive Physical Education class at UD. She realized then, what she watched her players learn Friday night - that participating in a Special Olympics event of any type is not only fun, but a very rewarding experience.
"What a fun night," Travis said following the clinic. "All of our players agreed that it was a fun and rewarding evening. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the game of tennis.
"For me personally, it was witnessing the smiles and seeing how quickly human beings can bond. The positive energy level between the UD and Special Olympics athletes was inspiring. We are already looking forward to having the event again next year."
The tennis events at Summer Games will include competition in singles, doubles and Unified doubles.In addition, a skills competition will be held for lower ability athletes. But regardless of each player's level of play, the skills learned from the Blue Hen players and coaches Friday night will certainly come in handy come tournament time.
"The best way for our athletes to get better is to practice," Wise added. "This opportunity was another chance for them to get on the tennis courts and receive top-notch instruction on a night when they otherwise would not have been practicing."