It is now ten years since the Rafa Nadal Foundation and Special Olympics Spain teamed up with a common goal: to promote the social inclusion of young people with an intellectual disability through tennis. That is how More than Tennis was born a decade ago, a project from which more than 1,200 athletes from all over Spain have benefited.
The results obtained reveal that joining the program and the regular practice of this sport have a direct and successful impact on the quality of life of the participants, who all have an intellectual disability. “With More than Tennis we have proved that tennis can also be a force for change and well-being, and we have seen how it contributes to breaking barriers and stigmas down”, explains María Francisca Perelló, director of the Rafa Nadal Foundation.
Besides improving psychomotor skills, such as coordination, More than Tennis athletes particularly assimilate values and attitudes, such as effort and perseverance, adopt healthy habits and strengthen their feeling of belonging and integration within a group. “More than Tennis provides an environment in which the athletes can make friends, have fun, learn by playing, share experiences, better themselves day by day and improve their self-esteem”, adds Enric Belsa, director of Special Olympic Spain.
Ever since the beginning, the project not only has increased the number of schools and, consequently, the number of beneficiaries, but it has also introduced improvements and initiatives, such as the modality of Unified Tennis, in which people with and without disability play together.
Precisely next Thursday, December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated. According to data from the organization Plena Inclusión (“Full Inclusion”), 1% of the Spanish population shows some kind of intellectual or developmental disability. Moreover, according to data collected by IMSERSO (Institute of Social Services and the Elderly) from the autonomous regions, by the end of 2015 there were a total of 268,633 people with a recognized intellectual disability of a degree greater than or equal to 33 % in Spain.
More than Tennis, ten years later
The program is currently operating at 20 sports schools throughout Spain, and this year 220 young people, mostly aged between 16 and 30, have participated in it.
Even though the activity at the centers was suspended due to the situation caused by the pandemics, this has been resumed over the past few weeks and now there are 12 schools where the project More than Tennis is active again.