Northbrook – NSSRA Gator Tennis athlete Josh Devries of Deerfield won gold in his division at the Special Olympics State Tennis Tournament in Bloomington-Normal on Saturday, August 19.
Devries, 27, has been playing tennis since he was 8, and on and off with North Shore Special Recreation Association since 2012. In 2016 he really hit his stride and has been on a winning streak ever since. After months of practice, Devries successfully qualified for the State games at the Area 2 Tennis Qualifier in Aurora last month, triumphantly taking his second match after it went to a tie-breaker.
NSSRA has eight athletes in its Special Olympics Tennis program, and this year Devries was the only athlete to qualify for the State games. “Josh has been working really hard in practice and competition to stay focused while on the court and not let anything distract him from his game,” said Becca Zajler, NSSRA Recreation Manager for Gator Athletics. “Even, and especially if a match wasn’t going his way,” she continued.
Zajler accompanied Devries and his parents to the State tournament at Evergreen Racquet Club to coach and cheer him on throughout the day. With an early start, “Josh’s first match he played opposite an athlete he’d previously gone up against at the area qualifier,” Zajler said. He won, and had much of the rest of the day to re-group, rest and prepare for the afternoon’s final match.
“Josh’s last match, for the championship title, was against a brand-new-to-him opponent with a fierce serve and powerful forehand swing, and at one point Josh got visibly frustrated with how the match was going,” Zajler said. “With seven courts of play going at once, the bustle of the arena and the tough competition make keeping your head in the game a challenge.”
“Fortunately, his training and extra practice paid off and he was able to re-focus, calm down, and adapt his game strategically to earn his points,” said Zajler. After a nail-biting set Josh came out victorious, immediately celebrating with a phone call to his brother, Andy, and nine additional family members and friends to report the good news. Zajler recalled, “He kept repeating, ‘I won, I am the State champion,’ to the delight of all his family and friends. It was a really great moment.”
For more information about Special Olympics Illinois, visit www.soill.org.
Submitted by NSSRA .