For nearly 30 years, athletes have participated in the Hospital for Special Care Ivan Lendl Adaptive Sports Camp. During the week, campers learn the basics of several types of sports including: track and field, tennis and wheelchair basketball.
This camp is free for families and allows all athletes to play their favorite sports with their peers. Campers from across New England and the Mid-Atlantic participate to improve their skills and have fun.
Dana Albrycht is a coach and mentor at the camp, but vividly remembers how important sports were for him as a child.
“A lot of times, back at their regular school, they’re the only person that has a disability. They’re not usually the kids who are picked first maybe on their team, but here kids are getting picked first and they are having a blast,” Albrycht said.
Adaptive athletes have a level playing field to compete against their peers in a fun and enriching environment. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing sports his entire life, but he notes it can be hard to keep up.
“I’ve been playing against able-bodied athletes and it’s hard to keep up. Just being with others who are like me and having a fair playing field is nice,” Fitzpatrick added.
On Wednesday, Lendl was on hand for all the action. The 8-time major champion’s legacy extends far beyond the court in Connecticut. He supports young athletes to continue playing sports.
“At the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, French Open and Australian Open, they have wheelchair tennis. Those guys and girls are amazing athletes,” Lendl said.
He encourages the campers to stay active, no matter what sport they play, and he has seen many of them excel.
“I look at it as kids doing sports, I don’t really care what sport it is. They are active, and they have fun,” Lendl continued.
For many young athletes, this camp is the first time they will use a chair for sports. This experience allows all campers to try a variety of sports in a non-competitive atmosphere.
“I have been looking forward all summer to trying out wheelchair tennis,” Fitzpatrick added. “I’m really excited to go back home and play it with my family.”
For the instructors, it is a chance to pass on lessons they have learned and what adaptive sports have meant for them.
“There’s really not a price that you can put on what sports did for me in terms of the confidence that it gave me and the ability to compete with others,” Albrycht said.
For everyone involved, there is one common reason to keep coming back.
“We had another little girl yesterday who was saying she really likes to win, but more importantly she likes to have fun and that’s what it’s all about,” Albrycht said.
The camp runs until August 9 and is held at Berlin High School. Athletes who are interested in participating next summer can visit their website here.