Serving Off the CourtThe Bethel tennis team is used to serving, but last fall, the players took their game to a new court when they supported Michiana Down Syndrome’s partnership with the nationwide Buddy Up Tennis program.

Buddy Up Tennis is a weekly, 90-minute program that combines general conditioning with basic tennis skills for people with Down syndrome. The program has 14 active locations across nine states in the U.S., including one at South Bend’s local racket club.

Bethel’s involvement with Buddy Up began when Junior Adrienne Koppinger’s roommate told her about the organization, which led Koppinger to ask Tennis Coach John Natali if the team could participate.

Natali jumped at the opportunity and asked the team whether they would be interested in volunteering.

“I told them I didn’t want to go in with one or two people. I wanted eight to 10,” Natali says.

Nine student-athletes signed up for the event.

Bethel students work with a teen from Michiana Down Syndrome as part of Buddy Up Tennis.

Bethel students work with a teen from Michiana Down Syndrome as part of Buddy Up Tennis.

At the racket club, several stations were set up for players. Some focused on fitness conditioning, while others helped develop basic tennis movements and strokes.

While the students mentored the players, Natali talked with parents.

“They were thrilled. It meant a lot to their kids to have a college team there,” he says.

The participants and parents were not the only ones who were impacted by the event.

“The coolest part for me was stopping and watching my teammates helping the kids. It was cool to see that different side of them,” says Koppinger.

Natali was thankful that the team had the ability to both serve and spread Bethel’s mission.

“It [service] gives us a chance to use our platform. It gives us a chance to be involved in the community,” Natali says. “That’s what Bethel College athletics is about — giving back.”

Learn more about Bethel’s tennis program at For more about Buddy Up Tennis, visit