Wheelchair Tennis has a Home in Midland 2/20/13
CBS7 Sports Director
Skyler Willis has always been in a wheelchair.
"She has transverse myelitis, which is a spinal-cord de-myelinization," her mother, Erika Willis said. "It kind of takes the myelin lining off the spinal cord. She got sick when she was 5-months old."
But that definitely didn’t stop her from being an on-the-go child.
"We don’t have to try, she is very active on her own," Erika shared.
"Hockey, basketball…I tried to do basketball," Skyler said.
"Yes, she takes her wheelchair to the skate park and skates," said her mom. "She’s very active.”
But still, Skyler and her family knew she was different. Fortunately, they met wheelchair tennis pro Adam Lucio, who let her know that is a-okay.
“There are no wheelchair sports in this area, and her and Adam were talking about it," Erika said. "He really wanted to get wheelchair tennis started and she was like, ‘I’m in!’”
“It’s just really fun!" said Skyler.
“I’ve been a 9-year-old in a wheelchair, I’ve been a 13-year-old in a wheelchair and I know exactly what they are feeling you know when they start new sports; when they have that ambition to start something new," Lucio shared. "And it’s a great feeling to be a part of that.”
“She looks forward to it, because it gives her something normal that everyone else gets to do," said her mom.
Now, thanks to the Bush Tennis Center, Adam has a place to coach and Skyler has a place to play.
“When I found out that the tennis center was giving me the opportunity to start a wheelchair program, I mean, it was a blessing," Lucio said. "And all the gates are wheelchair accessible, the restrooms, everything the facility is wheelchair accessible.”
“So having a facility that is accessible is great. She has no challenges. She just comes here and plays tennis," said Erika.
Adam and the Willis family both feel that more needs to be done as far as opening up opportunities for handicapped sports. Right now, the government is considering requiring those chances in schools.
“It’s something awesome. Handicapped sports are often overlooked over all the sports that everyone has going on," said Lucio enthusiastically.
“I think it’s great, because there really has been nothing," said Erika. "I mean, they had an OT and a PT come to the school during PE, but she didn’t mainstream with the other kids. They had her separate, working on piddly things while the kids were doing sports and learning different techniques for different things. There was never an opportunity for her.”
“If there is a sport that able-bodied people can do and they can do it also…that’s an immediate confidence boost," Lucio added. "Anything that we can see that we can do as well has done nothing but good things for us.”
Until that happens, at least in Midland there is a place for these talented athletes to get their roll on.
“She’s got a brighter smile every time she walks on the court…or I should say rolls," Lucio chuckled. "So every time she rolls on the court it’s a brighter face than last time. Because she already knows about the sport and she knows how to improve her game every day.”
“It’s pretty hard, pushing with the racquet in your hand," Skyler said. "You have to have one on your chair and one on the racquet. And you have to push with one hand.”
“There’s no such word as can’t," said her father, Shawn. "I always told her that is not in our vocabulary. You can do whatever you want to do.”