The Athletes Without Limits program is dedicated to identifying, developing and supporting elite tennis players with an intellectual impairment.  In 2014, Team USA competed in Australia and France.

By Jane Hines, special to

In 2009, Athletes Without Limits began with one athlete who refused to let intellectual impairment stand in the way of his quest to become a world champion. In five years, the program has grown to nine sports and an ever-increasing number of athletes with a shared dream to reach the highest levels in sports. Tennis was recently added to this flourishing high-performance sports program, with dedicated athletes training to compete in top-notch tennis events around the world.

The mission of Athletes Without Limits is to promote inclusivity in sport for all, especially those with intellectual impairment.  The Invitation to Athletes reads, “We’re looking for talented athletes with intellectual disability dedicated to competing at the highest level of sport.”  Nearly 200 athletes have answered the call.

In 2013, Athletes Without Limits selected four elite tennis players and formed Team USA. The team competed in its first international competition at the 2014 Australian Tennis Championships (part of the Australian Open) in Melbourne, a team event for elite athletes with intellectual impairment.  The next stop for Team USA was the Inas Tennis World Championships in Mont-De-Marsan, France. These tennis competitions are considered the best in the world for tennis players with intellectual impairment, attracting the highest caliber players. Brittany Tagliareni (Florida) won the women’s world championship. She and partner Katherine Richards (Texas) also captured the women’s doubles title. Richards and Ryan Smith (Florida) placed second in mixed doubles while Tagliareni and Jon Fried (Virginia) were third.

The volunteer staff, led by Co-founder and President Barry Holman, manages relationships with the international and US governing bodies and organizes teams for major competitions like the world championships. “We were fortunate to quickly identify some very talented players and now others looking to develop their skills are now coming forward. Under the leadership of our outstanding coaching staff lead by Diane and Jack Barker, we expect to grow and strengthen US players with intellectual impairment while also working to increase their opportunities to compete against the best in the world. Our goal is to have every grand slam include elite players with intellectual impairment.”

Athletes Without Limits is a non-profit that helps athletes identify coaching, training and competition opportunities at the national, regional and local level with a focus on the integration of athletes with intellectual impairment into mainstream sport.  More information can be found on the program’s website:

Athletes Without Limits focuses on the athlete, not the disability!