2008 Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year: Michael Mercier
Michael Mercier’s mission is strikingly similar to the USTA’s mission to “promote and develop the growth of tennis.” Mercier simply adds the word “wheelchair” to that statement.
Mercier’s introduction to wheelchair tennis came 15 years ago, when he volunteered at a clinic in Augusta, Maine. “It was kind of a challenge, a fun new thing to do,” he says. “To push the chair, with racquet in hand, that’s a learning curve of mobility. Once you get that part down, it’s actually really easy.”
Since then, the Harvard University tennis professional, USPTA Wheelchair Tester and winner of the USPTA New England Wheelchair Pro of the Year, has unselfishly dedicated time and energy to teaching wheelchair tennis and raising awareness of the sport. For this, he has been named the RSI Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year.
“Michael is an innovator when it comes to engaging people with wheelchair tennis at the local level,” says Dan James, USTA national manager of Wheelchair Tennis. “He has certified teaching professionals and ensured players have the opportunity to play.”
Between USPTA wheelchair certification and educational clinics, Mercier runs 20 events a year to instruct others how to play and teach wheelchair tennis, often using a sports wheelchair himself. He is also vigilant in scouting out entrances and exits for wheelchair players at local facilities.
For more than a decade, Mercier, who chairs the wheelchair tennis committee for USTA New England and was recently named the USTA Brad Parks Wheelchair Tennis Professional of the Year, has opened his camps and clinics to players of all ages and abilities. “It is a gift to work with athletes who have such passion, camaraderie, desire and positive work ethic,” says Mercier.
- Recruit players from other wheelchair sports, organizations for disabled citizens, schools, etc.
- Assess facility accessibility. Things to look for include steps, height, width and grade of entrances, and opening between net posts.
- Promote wheelchair tennis through word of mouth, special events, media and more.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.