Jeff Bourns is an American amputee tennis player whom helped popularize and pioneer the growth and development of organized Adaptive Standing Tennis. He retired from competition with a World Rank of 4 and top ranked American in his classification in 2019.
Jeff Bourns was born in Parkersburg, WV in 1981. He was diagnosed at birth with a congenital birth defect to his right leg, missing his tibia bone. As a result, his leg was amputated when he was two years old. When Jeff was 7 years old his family relocated to Houston, Texas. Shortly after the move his leg was amputated once again, above the knee. A year later the family discovered Jeff had tethered spinal cord syndrome. A tumor attached to his spinal cord pulling down while he was trying to grow with age. At the time having the tumor removed was a very risky procedure to have done and Jeff was to be left with permanent neurological deficiencies and severe nerve damage as a result. The surgery was a success, however, Jeff developed spinal meningitis while recovering at his home. After fighting and surviving meningitis he led a very active life.
Learning About Adaptive Sports
Bourns was continually engaged in sports and other active outdoor activities with his brothers, friends, mother and father. He played sports, went mountain biking, climbed trees, and enjoyed being as active as possible. At the same time, Jeff grew up in an era where organized Adaptive Sports for amputees were limited and not widely known.
After graduating High School he learned about organized Adaptive Sports for the first time.
While attending college he competed in the 2001 second annual Endeavor Games where for the first time in his life he met amputee peers his age he could relate with. For him this new found fellowship was a life changing experience, inspiring Jeff years later to begin mentoring and networking amputee youth, young adults, and their families together. These life experiences have given Jeff unique and invaluable knowledge and perspectives that he uses to this day.
In 2013, Jeff Bourns was approached by Cindy Benzon, USTA Southeast Texas adaptive tennis coordinator, who proposed that the two organizations join forces to pioneer stand-up adaptive tennis. Together in 2014, with the help of others, they would start up an adaptive tennis class in Houston, TX. One of the first of its kind, Bourns taught tennis to individuals with challenged mobility wishing to play standing under traditional tennis rules.
In 2014 The United States Tennis Association (USTA) of Texas charged Bourns to help grow and develop Adaptive Tennis for Amputees in Texas and abroad. For Six Years he served on USTA Texas’ Adaptive and Community Development Committee’s sharing his knowledge and experience to grow the game. He is the first adaptive athlete in this category to serve a USTA Adaptive Tennis Committee. Bourns was the first American Adaptive Standing Tennis Player to travel Internationally and compete in Professional Adaptive Standing Tennis Tournaments around the World. These Tournaments are for individuals with challenged mobility, but who wish to play tennis Ambulatory, or standing, rather than using a Wheelchair. In 2016 he was Instrumental in bringing this tour to the United States which has been used as a spring board for future Tournaments, Clinics, and Programs in the USA. Bourns is a Babolat endorsed athlete.
He helped popularize and pioneer the growth and development of organized Adaptive Standing Tennis. He retired from competition in 2019 ranked number 4 in the world and top ranked American in his classification in 2019.
In a venture off of the court Jeff has a producer credit on the Documentary Film Tin Soldiers. The film is a look into the world of adaptive sports, where athletes with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, amputations or paralysis find new ways to enjoy the sports they love.
In the future, he hopes to continue his efforts in adaptive tennis breaking down barriers for the next generation. Bourns aims to make opportunities that were not available to him growing up more accessible to others while also enabling them to dream BIG! Most importantly to enjoy the experience and having fun along the way!
“Sport has a unique way of bringing people together. Tennis, as in life, is a game of adjustments. We all adapt to it differently, disability or not! Tennis is for Everyone”! – Jeff Bourns