Founded in 2008 in Ohio, Buddy Up Tennis is a program for both children and adults with Down Syndrome that combines tennis, fitness, and social activities. Each week, athletes are partnered with volunteer Buddies for a clinic consisting of 30 minutes of fitness conditioning followed by 60 minutes of tennis instruction. The Dallas Chapter of Buddy Up Tennis launched in March 2019 and has quickly grown to be the largest in the nation!
Julie Schiller, ESD’s Girls Tennis Program Director, was instrumental in both bringing the Dallas Chapter to ESD and getting fellow Eagles involved. A friend of Dallas Program Coordinator Cheryl Halpert, she helped facilitate ESD’s partnership with Buddy Up Tennis after the program was forced to go virtual during the last year. “Eventually, I reached out to the players and parents about Buddy Up coming to ESD, and even a few parents have joined us,” said Coach Schiller.
“Coach Schiller emailed the team about this exciting opportunity. A few seniors [who had volunteered before] had amazing stories to tell so I signed up almost right away,” said Sophia Ukeni ’23. “Being surrounded by such hardworking athletes who were determined to learn and develop their skills in the sport was extremely rewarding.”
Before their tennis lesson with a curriculum specifically created for athletes with Down Syndrome, Buddies and athletes warm up with fitness conditioning. "The fitness part is probably my favorite, where you jump over hurdles, walk on balance beams, and run around cones," said Dalyan Prieto-Akmansoy '24. "It’s so nice seeing their faces after they finish because they look genuinely happy and feel accomplished."
“This past Sunday over Fall Break was my first time volunteering and I had a great time,” said Easterly Yeaman ’24. “It was so much fun working with my athlete, who is the same as age me, encouraging her throughout the practice, and laughing with her all day. All the athletes were super enthusiastic and happy which was very contagious.”
According to the Buddy Up For Life website, the parent program of the Buddy Up Tennis program, “Individuals with Down Syndrome face increased susceptibility to physical and psychological health complications, including risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, low muscle tone, atypical development of motor skills, and challenges in behavioral activity. In response to this critical need, the Buddy Up For Life program was founded beginning with simple, experimental tennis activities and has since evolved into the first and only organization with a comprehensive tennis and fitness program tailored to athletes with Down Syndrome.”
There are several remaining clinics this fall - visit www.buddyupforlife.org to become a Buddy today.