Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
USPTA New England Wheelchair Tennis Clinic Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   


On December 3rd and 4th, 2016, USPTA New England hosted a Wheelchair Tennis Clinic where adaptive athletes from all over New England and New York attended.  Using the Harvard University Murr Indoor Tennis Courts in Cambridge, MA, USPTA Wheelchair Tennis certified professional, Michael Mercier worked on the technical aspects of the game with the athletes.



Women's Wheelchair Basketball - NY v CT Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   


BRISTOl, CT – The Chapter 126 Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team opened NWBA Women’s Division play with two victories over Wheelchair Sports Federation Lady Liberty (New York) on Saturday 12/18. At Chapter 126 Sports & Fitness, an Oak Hill Center in Bristol, CT.  The ladies from Chapter 126 won game one 37-29 and followed that up with a second victory 38-30. With these two wins Chapter 126 is 2-0 in women’s division play and 3-2 overall.

Both teams play in the Women’s division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (nwba.org). These were the first women’s wheelchair basketball games played on the east coast in several years. The Chapter 126 Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team is comprised of 12 women and girls with physical disabilities from all around CT and four other states. (Massachusetts. New York, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island) The team member’s age ranges from 12-47 years and have a variety of physical disabilities. The team practices and plays games on a monthly basis.  Both teams already have been invited to the NWBA Women’s Division National tournament in Arlington, TX at the end of March.

Game 1 Recap:

In the first half the two teams were locked in a defensive struggle with the half ending a 16-16 tie.  In the second half the two teams battled back and forth but solid defense and timely shooting allowed Chapter 126 to pull away to an 8 point victory 37-29. The team was led in scoring by Megan Anderson (Pawtucket, RI) with 12pts while Kelly Lavoie (East Haven, CT) added 10pts. “It felt great to get out and play on a women’s team again. It’s been many years since I have been able to compete alongside other strong women on the basketball court. The dedication, teamwork and support we have for each other is like no other team I have played on. And to go undefeated on our home court just makes it that much sweeter.”

WFS Team Liberty (New York) was led by Seira Larrauri who had a game high 18pts.

Game 2 Recap:

In the second game of the double header Rachel Grusse (Glastonbury, CT) poured in a game high 22pts. While teammate Kelly Lavoie (East Haven, CT) chipped in 12pts for the Chapter 126 women’s team. WFS Team Liberty used a balanced scoring attack with both Seira Larrauri and Krystal Bailey scoring 10pts each. In the end, strong shooting by both Grusse and Lavoie led Chapter 126 to victory by the score of 38-30. “The two wins were great but it was amazing to play on and against a team comprised solely of women. I was in the company of like-minded individuals who at the end of the day just want to be known as athletes like our male counterparts.” Remarked Lavoie.

“These were two great games for the ladies on both teams to start an new east coast tradition of excellence. We may have come away with the win but thanks to the Wheelchair Sports Federation and Team Liberty we all got better on our way to nationals.” said Head Coach Paul Weiland. “Thanks also to everyone who came and supported both teams!”

The two teams plan to face off again in January game dates and times TBD. For more information on the team and how to show your support please contact Paul Weiland Adaptive Sports Program Coordinator and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Friday, 23 December 2016 02:14
Teenage wheelchair tennis star Joanna Nieh is absolutely amazing on court Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

  DEC 11, 2016

When you first meet Joanna Nieh, she is shy and quiet, with the polite demeanor you might expect from a young girl who’s grown up in a tight family on New York City’s Upper West Side. But once you get her on the tennis court, your perception of 14-year-old Nieh might change, as she becomes a tough competitor, with the hallmark attitude of a champion—which is exactly what she is. The wheelchair athlete is currently ranked No. 10 in the world for Juniors wheelchair tennis and has high hopes to keep climbing the ranks until she makes it all the way to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Nieh, who was born with spina bifida, can walk with the help of braces and crutches, but can’t compete in her favorite sport with these impediments, which is why she plays in a wheelchair. As a freshman at Manhattan’s Beacon High School, the determined teenager plays for the school’s tennis team and has won all her matches to date while helping the Blue Demons win two championships. If all that wasn’t impressive enough, Nieh also competes in wheelchair racing and sled hockey to help cross-train for her primary sport.

Joanna Nieh and Beacon High School team after winning PSAL Championships Joanna Nieh and Beacon High School team after winning PSAL Championships

“Joanna started as a timid girl who came to the Sunday clinics on a weekly basis,” said Aki Takayama, who coaches Nieh at the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) in Flushing, N.Y. “Now her goal is set to get an [International Tennis Federation] ranking and play on the U.S. Paralympic team. As an athlete, she has grown exponentially and my hopes for her now is that she does get to play in the Paralympics 2020.”

[More from Excelle Sports; U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team records historic victory at Paralympic Games]

Jason Harnett, national manager of wheelchair tennis, has also been impressed by Nieh’s work ethic and growth as an athlete over the past few years. “The USTA national staff are thrilled to see the desire and exponential improvement by her in such a short period of time,” Harnett said. “She has an extremely supportive family environment and that will only be a huge plus for her going forward toward her Paralympic dreams.”

On a rare afternoon off from training, Nieh, along with her father, Jason, sat down with Excelle Sports to talk about her life as a wheelchair athlete, her goals for the future and the challenges of playing and competing in wheelchair tennis.

Lifestyle Editor Kim Vandenberg and Joanna Nieh (Photo by Jason Nieh)Lifestyle Editor Kim Vandenberg and Joanna Nieh (Photo by Jason Nieh)

Excelle Sports: How did you first get involved in wheelchair tennis?

Joanna Nieh: I used to play tennis standing up and I really enjoyed it. So my mom looked for programs and found the one at the USTA. I started doing that when I was 10 years old. I started [sled] hockey around the same time and then, a few years later, I started wheelchair racing. My father used to play tennis so he sometimes plays with me. My brother also plays and my sister just kind of started.

Joanna playing doubles (Photo by Jason Nieh)Joanna playing doubles (Photo by Jason Nieh)

ES: What’s Joanna’s competitive schedule like?

Jason Nieh: Every year the Junior Wheelchair Masters happens in France. Les Petits As [Junior Tennis World Cup] goes up to 14-years old for stand-up players and up to 18-years old for wheelchair athletes. For wheelchair girls, [the U.S. team] takes the top four [to France]—the top three, plus one wild card. So there is an outside chance the U.S. will put [Joanna] in for the wild card. We will see.

ES: If you go to France, will that be your first international trip?

Joanna: Does Canada count? I guess it will be my first big international tournament, yes.

ES: What are your goals in the sport? We were just talking about a possible trip to France, but do you have dreams of going further than that?

Joanna: Yes, maybe the Paralympics …

Jason: Her coach thinks that’s within reason. It is a good goal to shoot for. And Joanna does like sushi!

ES: Tell me a bit about your training at the USTA?

Joanna: I train with coach Aki. I started four years ago with her group lessons and a few years later I started taking private lessons with her. There are 10 to 15 people in the group sessions and I have private lessons with Aki on Friday and then the group lesson on Sunday.

Jason: There are local tournaments for stand-up players of all levels, so I was thinking about signing her up for a couple just to get some practice in. There aren’t very many wheelchair tennis tournaments in this area. The largest scholastic tournament in the country is the Mayor’s Cup, held at the Cary Leeds [Center for Tennis in the Bronx, N.Y.] and she actually did that for the first time this year in June. 

[More from Excelle Sports; Michelle Konkoly : ‘I wanted to be at the top of the team, not at the bottom’]

ES: What is the biggest obstacle for you in wheelchair tennis?

Joanna: Mobility. I still don’t know all the patterns or where to go sometimes.

Jason: I think the hardest part for stand-up players is that they are a lot faster. In wheelchair tennis, the main difference is  that you can have two bounces instead of one and so the game may move a little bit slower. The hard part about the chair is getting it moving, turning and holding the tennis racket.

ES: Do you ever train without a racket or balls so you can focus solely on improving mobility?

Joanna: I do with my dad, but not with my coach. And sometimes I do at camps when we have more time.

Jason: There is a wheelchair tennis camp where they work on mobility-type drills for the wheelchair. She also plays in a group setting with stand-up kids. But when they work on foot work, it’s hard to translate that to the wheelchair.

ES: Do you do any cross training?

Joanna: My dad considers wheelchair racing [on a track or road] cross training. I do wheelchair racing for an hour three times a week.

ES: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing tennis?

Joanna: I like to stay at home and play with my siblings. We like to play board games.

Joanna with her siblings (Photo from Jason Nieh)Joanna with her siblings (Photo from Jason Nieh)

ES: Do you have a favorite memory from any of the competitions you’ve played?

Joanna: I don’t have a favorite memory—it’s all fun for me. Once a year, there is a tournament at the USTA in June. I wish there were more tournaments throughout the year.

Jason: The hardest thing is finding the opportunity to play. There is a wheelchair program on Sunday, but it only meets once a week and there is really nothing during the summer. And it’s mostly adults. When [Joanna] first started getting more interested, the hardest thing was that [coaches and tennis progams] just kept saying, ‘No, I won’t take a wheelchair player’—that is the hardest thing with local tournaments as well. They keep saying that, even though the official USTA rules say, ‘Here is how you integrate wheelchair players and able body players.’

[More from Excelle Sports; Zahra Nemati performing Olympics/Paralympics double in archery]

ES: How do you deal with the challenge that few tennis tournaments and programs are willing to take wheelchair athletes?

Jason: Sometimes it’s education and telling them about the rules, sometimes it’s giving some outside assistance to help … In fact, her high school has been fantastic, but it has been a process. There are a lot of questions. Can she play in a tournament? And can she play by USTA rules? There were people who were helpful and then there were people who gave me the run around. A lot of the programs are for adults—there are fewer wheelchair programs for kids. It would be wonderful if there was a recognition that wheelchair tennis is highly integrative.

ES: Have you ever been to see the U.S. Open here in New York?

Joanna: Yes, we have watched a bunch of years!

Jason: It’s a great opportunity for her to see the pros in action.

ES: Do you ever get nervous before you compete?

Joanna: Sometimes. I was nervous at my last tournament at Hilton Head during doubles.

Joanna playing at Hilton Head (Photo from Jason Nieh)Joanna playing at Hilton Head (Photo from Jason Nieh)

ES: Do you want to play in college?

Joanna: It depends on where I go because not all programs have wheelchair tennis, maybe Alabama or Arizona.

For more information on wheelchair tennis, visit the USTA’s site here.

Excelle Sports lifestyle editor Kim Vandenberg is an Olympic bronze medalist, Pan American gold medalist, World Championship silver medalist and three-time U.S. national champion and French national champion in swimming. She’s also a member of Excelle’s Athletes Council.

See the video at http://www.excellesports.com/news/wheelchair-tennis-joanna-nieh-paralympic-games/

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 December 2016 18:35
22nd Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   


The 22nd Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament had 5 teams participating on Saturday October 29, 2016 and Sunday October 30, 2016 at the Hackensack (NJ) Middle School. They placed: 

1st Place - Nassau Kings

2nd Place - Bulova Nets

3rd Place – Brooklyn Nets

4th Place – New England Blazers

5th Place - Jr Nets


Individual Awards went to the following:

Class I Al Youakim All-Star –Megan Anderson – New England Blazers

Class I Al Youakim All-Star – Breanna Clark – Nassau Kings

Class II Al Youakim All-Star – Kyle Jankowski – Jr Nets

Class II Al Youakim All-Star – Jonathan Torres – Bulova Nets

Class III Al Youakim All-Star - Steven Yedlock - Bulova Nets

Class III Al Youakim All-Star – Hector Marambio – Brooklyn Nets

Mike Lione MVP Award - Christopher St. Remy - Nassau Kings

Freddy Jones Sportsmanship Award – Seira Larrauri – Brooklyn Nets

Al Youakim Spirit Award – Rebecca Yedlock


Congratulations on another great Tournament and the Wheelchair Sports Federation would like to thank our wonderful volunteers, Dan Levine, Bill Youakim and Chris Youakim.  We'll see you next November 2017 for the 23rd Annual.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 17:39
16th Annual Major League Wheelchair Softball Tournament Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   


The 16th Annual Major League Wheelchair Softball Tournament took place at Victory Field in Queens NY on September 23rd and 24th, 2016.  3 Wheelchair Softball Teams sponsored by Major League Baseball franchises competed.  The New England Rolling Red Sox, New York Mets and New York Yankees fought for the coveted "Kelly Cup", named after Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association and United Spinal Association’s' former Executive Director, Jerry Kelly.


After playing 6 games over two days, the New York Mets beat the New England Rolling Red Sox to win the 16th Annual Major League Wheelchair Softball Tournament.


On behalf of the players, coaches and Wheelchair Sports Federation, we'd like to thank the NYC Parks Department, All-American Deli, Bussani Mobility, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Major League Baseball for their continued support.  Without their help, we could not have a premiere Wheelchair Softball Tournament in the Northeast and one of the better events for Adaptive Sports in the United States. 

2016 Final Results:

1st Place – New York Mets

2nd Place – New England Rolling Red Sox

3rd Place - New York Yankees

2016 All-Tournament Team Awards

Sportsmanship – Karina Nicolakis – NY Yankees

Best Rookie – Alejandro Tavarez – NY Mets

Al Youakim Spirit Award - Michael Lambert

We look forward to being back at Citi Field in September 2017.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 03:48
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