Special STARS hosts tennis competition
AVON PARK - Most athletes struggle for that perfect ace serve in tennis and Special STARS athlete Mac Smith has spent years trying to master his technique. With the racket under his left arm and the tennis ball in his right hand, Smith, 57, lines up behind the service line. He places the ball down on the ground so he can pull the racket out from under his arm with his right hand. "I'll show you," he proudly said.Smith then bends down with the racket in his right hand and picks up the ball with two fingers from his right hand. He tosses the ball up and slams it into the service box. "I did it!" he screamed. Smith has limited use of his left hand but he has never let that slow him down in playing any sports. He plays softball in a similar way by using his one good hand. No one showed him how to serve that way, he just developed the technique on his own. He used to bounce the ball and hit it to serve but he changed his technique this year and has great success at it. "I have learned that you never tell Mac that he can't do something," Special STARS Coordinator Cindy Marshall said. "He amazes me every time and I am so proud of his determination to participate. He just wants a chance to do everything like everyone else. I love giving him the opportunity to succeed in these sports." In addition to improving his serve, Smith teamed up with his housemate John Smith in doubles to learn more about the game. Mac started out in skills but was ready to move onto game action this year. Special STARS athletes competed in tennis on Saturday, May 4, at South Florida State College. There were 29 athletes with disabilities who competed either in skill levels or doubles on the courts. They practiced for two weeks with volunteers. In doubles competition, the athletes played one set. Robert Collier, of Lake Placid and Nicole Lewis, of Sebring, teamed up to beat Eva Monk and Shawn Squires, both of Sebring. The game score was 7-5. Elizabeth Jordon, of Sebring, and Katie Gibson, of Avon Park, teamed up to beat Mac Smith and John Smith, both of Sebring. Their game score was 6-1. The skill level is designed to help teach the fundamentals of the game to players. They are then tested on each skill such as volleys, serves and ground strokes. The players are matched up against others who have similar abilities and placed in heats. Winners in Heat 1 were Francesca DiMeglio, first; Ilana Levy, second; Annie Horn, third; Beth Horn, fourth; Becky Anders, fifth; and Ronnie Gladson, sixth. Winners in Heat 2 were Maria Rivera, first; Cole Germaine, second; Jackie Furry, third; Penny Holder, fourth; Fred Moore, fifth; and Linda Decker, sixth. Winners in Heat 3 were Stephanie Travi, first; Megan Eisnaugle, second; Tammy Furman, third; Edrei Lopez, fourth; Dustin Akey, fifth; and Bryan Bishop, sixth. All athletes were presented trophies and ribbons during an awards ceremony after lunch.