Twelve years ago, Beth Gibson founded Buddy Up Tennis when her son Will who has Down syndrome, showed a budding interest in tennis at the age of three while she and her older son played at a tennis and fitness club. Noting Will’s enthusiasm, two staff members volunteered to teach him. When they researched adaptive techniques, they found few programs for people with special abilities. Today, the New Albany-based nonprofit has grown to 650 athletes, 1,000 volunteers and 100 coaches nationwide.
“Our athletes love the comradery with our volunteers,” says Gibson. “There is a huge need for our athletes to be engaged in structured programming, encouraged to reach their full potential, and learn and grow.”
The first Buddy Up Tennis clinic was held in December 2008 in Columbus. In the decade following, Buddy Up Tennis became an expert at educating and training people with special abilities and began providing the blueprint and curriculum to launch additional chapters. Today, the program has grown to 25 cities across the country. Buddy Up Tennis has been featured at multiple ATP Pro Circuit Tournaments, including the US Open, and was recognized by the United States Tennis Association as the Adaptive Program of the Year in 2016.
A circuit training fitness program at ten locations around the country started two years ago to add another level of programming for athletes. In addition to tennis, the nonprofit offers Buddy Up Zumba, Buddy Up Kick Boxing and Summer Camps, including virtual camps this summer. Buddies, aka volunteers, include high school students, college club members, area residents and corporate employees.