Count Jason Allen as a fan of the USTA Southern California and all they have done for wheelchair tennis over the years.
The USTA National Manager of Wheelchair Tennis, Allen is in charge of all the USTA wheelchair grassroots programming, grants, tournaments, camps and education. He’s also the Team Leader for Team USA and all the amazing athletes that compete at the highest levels on the international wheelchair tennis circuit. In town to support the SCTA Foundation sponsored “All-Comers” camp, Jason shared his thoughts about the history of wheelchair tennis in Southern California.
“Wheelchair tennis was invented in this part of the world,” said Allen, in an extended interview during the recent USTA SoCal Wheelchair Tennis Camp made possible by the SCTA Foundation though a grant from the Craig H. Nielsen Foundation. “You have a lot of good coaches and just the history. You come out here and you can just feel that it is a historic place.”
Indeed, it was one Brad Parks then of Orange County who in the late 1970s first conceived the idea and rules of wheelchair tennis. In 1988, the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation was formed, with Parks as its president. In 1998, IWTF was brought into the International Tennis Federation, the same time the USTA assumed responsibility for wheelchair tennis in the U.S. from the National Foundation for Wheelchair Tennis.
Parks was also responsible for starting the first international wheelchair tennis event, the US Open, held in California.
“The USTA Southern California just does a phenomenal job promoting and programming wheelchair tennis,” Allen said. “They are simply the best at it. By default, they have to be the best. This is the home of wheelchair tennis.”
Longtime wheelchair tennis coach and advocate Dee Henry calls Southern California the “mecca” of wheelchair tennis.
“The exposure to wheelchair tennis has grown immensely over the past few years,” said Henry, long considered the matriarch of Southern California wheelchair tennis as she has been the No. 1 cheerleader and instructor of the sport for years. “Southern California is the mecca of wheelchair tennis.”
Allen said for wheelchair tennis to continue to grow in Southern California, it is imperative to train and certify more coaches, like they did during the SoCal camp. “The more coaches we get, the more wheelchair players we get,” Allen said.
“It’s just phenomenal what the USTA SoCal has done, especially during COVID times,” Allen said. “Our wheelchair community was really shut down for quite a while. And a lot of players were just begging for the opportunity to get back out there. I applaud the USTA SoCal Section for being so progressive, and aggressive, to get some programming started up again.”
To learn more about the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation, go to: https://sctafoundation.org/