We’re excited to check-in with first time Program Director Naveen Shah from our Washington, DC – Georgetown University program.
After learning about ACEing Autism at the TOC National Championships last year, Naveen knew he had found a great way to add a missing piece to his club tennis team. “I always felt like we were lacking that charity part and this was such a great opportunity to add that,” Naveen explained.
Even though all the hard work was worth it, finding courts was no easy task for Naveen and his co-Program Director Daniel Kiely. Thanks to Regional Program Director Lynn Sommer Gertzog and the staff’s help, they were able to get the tools and training necessary to launch the program. Once they recruited participants, all those months leading up to the launch came to fruition. “One of the most rewarding parts was seeing the bond they were forming,” Naveen told us with a smile going from ear to ear. In addition, he has learned to adapt as each child learns at a different pace. “I’ve had to figure out what will make the kids love the sport and stay engaged. They will stay engaged if you can find what interests them.”
Throughout the session, Naveen was surprised to see how quickly the athletes were learning. “Some of our older kids can already rally with the volunteers, which is amazing coming from no tennis experience,” he said with a big smile on his face. “With the younger participants, the development we saw was primarily social. Some of them would give each other high fives, play games together, and they bonded with their volunteer buddy.”
Another big area the Program Directors and volunteers worked on with the younger athletes was persistence. “They would get frustrated more than the older kids when they messed up, so we worked hard to teach them persistence and that it’s okay to mess up,” he recalled. “The focus was to show how exciting it was to make the shot and that even if you missed one, you got to make one after.”
Even though Naveen is heading to Italy for a semester abroad, he is thrilled to say that the program will continue. “The cool part is that we had continuity in mind and that as a club team, we can keep providing it. We already worked on finding someone to sub for me and manage the program with Daniel.”
As they finish their session next week, they are already excited to start planning their next one. Stay tuned for more information on their Fall session! In the meantime, to find a program near you.