UVa Tennis Helps Out Special Olympians at Clinic

By: Nate Sulham Email
By: Nate Sulham Email

It's hard to tell who was having more fun Thursday at the Boar's Head Sports Club: the Virginia men's and women's tennis teams or the Special Olympians they were playing with.

Over 30 Special Olympians from around the world are in Charlottesville for the Xperience Invitational, a three-day event that started Thursday.

They were able to get up close and mingle with coaches and players from both Cavalier teams and receive helpful instruction to improve their game.

"Those involved with Special Olympics tennis give way more back to us than we could ever give to them," Virginia men's tennis coach Brian Boland said. "I feel like we have such an opportunity to learn so much about hard work, character and integrity and the things these people represent. How they go about competing is just so special."

Boland and his defending national champion Wahoos and Marc Guilbeau and the UVa women were all smiles watching the Special Olympians give it their all during the hit-around.

"It's the best event of our year, hands down," women's coach Mark Guilbeau said. "It never ceases to amaze us how much fun the Olympians bring into the building and into our lives."

And the Olympians themselves were thankful for the opportunity to play with some of the country's finest collegiate players.

"It's a fun experience I'm having right now," Virginia Beach native Jeff Regan said. "The more practice I have the better I get."

"It's been a pleasure," Georgia's Jamie Gillespie added. "I get to have the courage to come back and meet new people and have everyone see how well I play."

Both Boland and Guilbeau say one of the lasting memories of the event is the imprint it leaves on their players.

"It's without question one of the most memorable experiences of both my former and current players," Boland said. "Years and years after our young men graduate, they still bring up working with Special Olympics."

"One of the things the girls do when they come back, even before looking at their own pictures on the wall, (is) they go to the hallway that has the Special Olympian photos and it reminds them of such good experiences," Guilbeau added.

The Olympians insist the gratitude is mutual.

"They do a lot for us," Gillespie said. "They provide us with a lot of stuff and I appreciate what they do."

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