Sometimes, in the wake of tragedy, opportunity can arise.
Ten years ago, Adam Zaccara’s nephew suffered a neck injury that left him paralyzed. Ever since then, Zaccara has volunteered with different organizations to promote adaptive sports, which are modified to accommodate physical or mental disabilities. He started with Sail to Prevail and then noticed there wasn’t an adaptive tennis program in his region.
“Tennis is my true love, so I wanted to bring an adaptive tennis program to Newport, Rhode Island, where I live,” Zaccara said. “I started a non-profit, which I got approved about a year and a half ago, called Newport Tennis and Fitness.”
Newport Tennis and Fitness offers programs for able-bodied youth and adults, but it also offers wheelchair tennis and a program for kids with autism in partnership with ACEing Autism. Zaccara is the program’s director.
“I reached out to ACEing Autism. I simply went on my laptop and looked for tennis with autism,” Zaccara said. “I was very impressed with what I read. They’ve been around for over 10 years, we were their 73rd program when we opened up.
“A couple winters ago, I went down to Brown University, which is their other program in Rhode Island, then we went ahead and started my nine-week program in the summer. It was a great success.”
As one of 13 regional Net Generation youth wheelchair providers, Zaccara gets a grant from the USTA to help operate and grow his program.
Zaccara started coaching in 2006 while he was working at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. He earned his USPTA certification at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows and recently upgraded to Elite Professional.
He is in his first season coaching men’s and women’s tennis at Salve Regina University, his alma mater, in Newport. The Seahawks won three conference titles in his four years as a student.
“We’re trying to bring back that winning tradition,” he said.
As he works to bring back success on the court to Salve Regina, he’s also working to grow Newport Tennis and Fitness and adapted sports in general.
“I think there’s huge potential up here in the Northeast for wheelchair tennis,” he said. “People know about it but I think there’s a ton of kids out there and adults that are in wheelchairs that haven’t been exposed to it yet. It’s a growing sport so I really want to be behind that.”
He wants to get more Salve Regina students involved in volunteering. He wants to get involved in Paralympics. Mostly, he just wants to keep going.
“I just really loved working with kids with special needs, it’s a rewarding thing,” he said. “It’s awesome for them, as well. They look forward to it every week and can’t wait to see you. It’s really gratifying to make those kinds of relationships and friendships. Volunteering for one hour to ensure that we have a nice adaptive program for ACEing Autism is worth it for me, definitely.”