Court 16 Tennis teaches the blind and visually impaired how to play tennis

ByEmily Sowa, John Sprei, Josh Hartmann & Jared Barnett WABC logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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BROOKLYN (WABC) -- Imagine waking up one morning and not being able to see? That was the terrifying reality for Zoe Hartman.

"One day I woke up and I couldn't see and that was that." said Hartman, "I had a brain tumor that pressed against my optic nerves and caused me to go blind. I have only been blind for about 5 years, I was 22 years old at the time."

This was life changing for Zoe, as she was originally studying film and looking forward to a career in television.

"I'm fully blind in my right eye and partial vision in my left eye - so I don't see depth perception or peripheral - so most things are blurry and I don't see details very well," said Hartman.

But then Zoe discovered Court 16 Tennis in Brooklyn, New York.

Court 16 Tennis partnered with the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, and launched a comprehensive tennis experience, called 'Sound of Tennis', for visually impaired adults in the New York community.

"I am visually impaired and tennis has always been kind of fearful for me because the ball is so little, you can't even see it. So to know there's a program where you don't have to worry about so much seeing it as hearing it - it's amazing," said Samantha Deroche.

The goal was to help blind and visually impaired individuals develop independence and be able to fully participate in community activities.

"We really wanted to adapt the game and make sure it was accessible to everyone," said Founder and CEO Anthony Evrard, "That includes athletes that are blind or visually impaired."

Using sound adapted foam tennis balls on a modified court, their expertly trained coaches customize hour-long lessons for individuals with varying levels of visual impairment.

"The balls that we have, have a bell in them," said Director of Tennis Nick Nemeroff, "And players have to hear the bell and time their swing with the sound of the ball hitting the ground."

In small group settings, players are able to advance their skills on the court progressively, fostering teamwork and strengthening their self-esteem.

"It's incredibly rewarding to teach this group of players," said Nemeroff, "It's great to give players this level of activity where they may not get it otherwise."

Court 16 Tennis is also New York City's premier lifestyle tennis destination for kids and adults alike. With indoor tennis clubs in Brooklyn and Long Island City, their mission is to provide an inclusive environment for players of all ages. Whether it be a child taking their first steps on the court, or an adult getting back into the swing of things, Court 16 cultivates a community for both the young and young at heart.

"Knowing there are many things I can't do, it's nice to know there is something that I CAN do," said Hartman.

For more exciting happenings in and around New York, visit In Our Backyard.