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Released December 8, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS GRADUATE OFFERS
WHEELCHAIR TENNIS LESSONS AT GULF PARK CAMPUS

LONG BEACH - Robbie Sullivan, a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi, enjoys teaching wheelchair tennis at the university's Gulf Park campus, but he has not always been an avid tennis player or fan of the sport.

To watch him play or to hear him discuss the sport, it's hard to believe that Sullivan, who has a degree in sport administration, just recently became involved in tennis.

A Crystal Springs native, Sullivan became interested in wheelchair tennis when a friend of his, Johnny McGinn, approached him at a movie theater about it. McGinn asked him if he was interested in playing wheelchair tennis. Sullivan agreed, but with much skepticism.

After playing for a while, Sullivan, a paraplegic with a t-7 spinal chord injury, discovered he liked the sport and began playing regularly.

With the encouragement of McGinn, Sullivan decided to begin competing in tournaments.

That was two years ago and now Sullivan is ranked 13th nationally in Division C wheelchair tennis, winning one singles title and two doubles. He has competed in tournaments in Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.

It was at a tennis exhibition that Dr. Sara Jackson, associate professor at Southern Miss and director of the Toy Library and Technology Learning Center (TLC), asked Sullivan about giving wheelchair tennis lessons at the center to people with disabilities.

Sullivan said he enjoys giving lessons because it gives him a chance to go to work every day and do something he loves.

Sullivan believes it is important to increase awareness of wheelchair sports, and that TLC offering tennis lessons has had an impact in making the public aware of this sport, as well as other things TLC has to offer.

"There are people who do not know about wheelchair sports or TLC and it is important to increase awareness," said Sullivan. "It is important because if someone had not helped me, I would not have gotten into it," he said. "You never know how well you will like something until you try it."

Currently, Sullivan gives lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays. Jackson said there are plans for Sullivan to give lessons more often at TLC. Sullivan's activities are not limited to wheelchair tennis. He also plays wheelchair basketball for the Gulf Coast Hurricanes.

For more information, contact the Southern Miss Gulf Coast TLC at (228) 867-2636.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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