Wheelchair Tennis champion of the Year: Curt and Lynn Bender
Tennis is what brought together Lynn and Curt Bender of Grand Rapids, Mich. “About 12 years ago, Curt [who was injured in an auto accident in 1989] was playing in a local tournament and I was a therapist at the rehab hospital, and was helping out at the event,” Lynn says.
A teaching pro and former collegiate player, Lynn says she knew nothing about wheelchair tennis at the time, but was asked to coach. “Once Curt and I started hitting we became friends, and our passion for tennis grew together. It’s a tennis love story.”
The Benders have been involved with the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association for many years, and recently the GRWSA merged with a local rehab hospital to form the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports program, of which Lynn is the wheelchair tennis program director. Lynn also has been honored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame with the 2011 Tennis Educational Merit Award. Curt, still very active in playing the sport, chairs Wheelchair Tennis committees for both USTA National and USTA Midwest and is on the ITF Wheelchair Committee. And now both are RSI’s Wheelchair Tennis Champions of the Year.
“Curt and Lynn have been dedicated to wheelchair tennis at every level,” says Dan James, the USTA’s national manager for Wheelchair Tennis. “They run one of the best local programs in the country and still have time to volunteer at the national level and help our programming.”
“We do it through the joy and passion that we have together,” Curt says. “It’s a testament to the teamwork that says one plus one is always more than two.”
Tips for Success
- “We do a lot of things together, but also a lot of things apart,” Curt says. Understand your similarities and your differences, as each others’ gifts.
- “One of the biggest rewards is when a newly injured player comes out to practice for the first time,” Lynn says. “It’s amazing to watch them grow and find out, ‘Wow, I can do this!’”
- “Integrating a wheelchair sport into an able-bodied sport is cool,” says Curt. “But the important thing is, everyone just calls it ‘tennis.’”
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.