Meet Tej Munaganuri, a participant from our Dallas, TX program. “Tej had never played tennis before starting ACEing Autism in 2017,” his father Ravi recalls. Five years later, “Tej just won gold in orange ball singles and unified doubles at the Special Olympics State Championship.”
To understand the magnitude of this, let’s go back to the middle of 2020. “The issue was movement to the ball,” Adrienne Bransky, the Program Director, explained. “If the ball came to him he could return every shot, but if the ball was even the shortest bit outside of arm’s length, he would let it go. Our head coaches Fernando Bulnes and Olivia Slate have worked tirelessly the past year to engage him to move to the ball.”
In order to accomplish that, “Tej would shadow the coaches movement from the T and back again – first to the right and then to the left,” Adrienne recalled. “Eventually they incorporated a basketball so Tej would have to move side to side to get to the ball before it bounced a second time”. Once this movement became second nature, they moved on to working on his forward and backward movement. ”Again, they started out with him shadowing movement to and from the baseline. Then they incorporated ball tracking with hand-fed tosses, and finally they reincorporated the tennis ball and racquet,” the veteran Program Director told us. “It took another few months to build up his stamina and willingness to stay with the effort.” Then they had to repeat the process to work on his forward and backward movement.
After 18 months of hard work, Tej competed in the 2022 Special Olympics, making his coaches, Program Director, and parents beyond proud. “Seeing him sprint to the ball brought tears to my eyes knowing how much work he put into being able to do something considered simple by others,” Adrienne said excitedly. “The icing on the cake was when he won the silver medal!”
On top of his amazing improvements on court, his father also noticed more improvements. “His hand-eye coordination has gotten a lot better, he understands tennis terminology better, and follows coaches’ directions,” Ravi said beaming. He then continued by explaining that his improvements came “after COVID by doing a lot of running, and practicing 3 times a week.”
His father finished by saying “how amazing it is to see him doing so well, I feel very happy.”
Congratulations to Tej on all his hard work and achievements so far. We can’t wait to see how far you go!