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A Unique Profile On Mark LaRotonda

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Mark LaRotonda

True Dedication To Growing Wheelchair Tennis

By Gina Clance, Net News contributor

As tennis enthusiasts, ALTA members look for more tennis to watch and even more tennis to play. ALTA’s Wheelchair and Run/Roll Leagues are growing and offering tennis players yet another opportunity to get outside to enjoy the sport they love.

Invented in 1976, wheelchair tennis was first included in the Barcelona Paralympic Games in 1992 and is now played at all four Grand Slam tournaments every year, as well as at each Paralympic Games. The rules for wheelchair and run/roll tennis are exactly the same as regular tennis — with one exception. Chair players can let the ball bounce twice. The first bounce has to be within the court lines, but the second bounce can be out. Runners, however, still only get one bounce.

Mark LaRotonda, ALTA Special Programs Vice President, has been playing wheelchair tennis for 30 years. The New York native moved to the Atlanta area 20 years ago and has had his hands in raising awareness for this sport ever since. LaRotonda not only volunteers with ALTA, he also coaches wheelchair tennis and basketball for BlazeSports. The mission of this organization is “to change the lives of individuals with physical disabilities through adaptive sport and recreation.” Blaze offers several sports for people of all ages and runs tournaments and clinics year-round. Learn more at blazesports.org.

In the spring and fall, ALTA offers wheelchair players of all skill levels an opportunity to compete. Clinics also are on the calendar in May and July. “These clinics are for everyone. Beginners can come out to learn the basics—how to move the chair, how to hold the racquet, and how to serve. More experienced players can come out to work on a particular shot or skill.”

Mark LaRotonda, ALTA Special Programs Vice PresidentLaRotonda realizes some people may not think they can be successful on the courts. “My first encouragement is just to come out to clinic and try it,” he says. “Most people say, ‘I don’t have a tennis racquet; I don’t have a wheelchair.’ We’ll do our best to provide some of that. Our main goal is to get out and play. That is our total focus. We are competitive. There’s no doubt about it. But there’s also a camaraderie. We’re always there for each other.”

In the summer, the ALTA Run/Roll League brings the dynamic of one “runner” and one chair player to the courts. “Getting people involved as runners is a great avenue for awareness,” says LaRotonda. “It lets everyone know people in chairs can be athletes, too. I would say there are two things a first-time runner should know: 1) play within the spirit of the game, and 2) communicate with your partner at all times.”

Getting the word out about ALTA’s Wheelchair and Run/Roll leagues is something LaRotonda feels strongly about. ALTA members ages 16 and up can sign up to play wheelchair or run/roll, and LaRotonda would love to see more juniors get involved. ALTA is planning a Run/Roll Mixer in 2024. Details on this opportunity to participate and cheer on fellow tennis players will be emailed as they are finalized. For more information on the ALTA Wheelchair and Run/Roll leagues or the clinics, please contact LaRotonda at specialprogramsvp@altatennis.org.

Wheelchair
League
Important
Spring
Dates

  • 
Spring
season
begins
March
12
and runs through April 30 at Hudlow Tennis Center at 6:30 p.m.
  • 
Spring
clinics
are
held
at
Hudlow
Tennis
Center on Tuesdays in May from 6-8 p.m.
  • 
Run/Roll
registration
begins
May
3.
The season begins on June 4 and runs through July 23. Matches also are played at Hudlow Tennis Center at 6:30 p.m.

 

 

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