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Men’s Tennis Begins “Smash MS”

Sep 3, 2013, 12:43 AM EDT

Join the Notre Dame men's tennis team as they "Smash MS"

Sports clinics are very common at Notre Dame. It’s a good chance for South Bend natives and members of the Notre Dame community to learn something new, be it ice skating, golf, basketball, softball, or in this case, tennis. Men’s tennis head coach Ryan Sachire sees the clinic as an opportunity to do something a little different than what they’ve done before.

“On September 7, the day of the Michigan game, our team is going to be hosting a clinic—one for the South Bend community from 9:30-10:30 AM and then another for the Notre Dame community from 11-12,” Sachire said. “Our hope is to bring awareness to the fight against Multiple Sclerosis (MS).”

The clinic is a free event and everyone is welcome to attend.

Coach Sachire shared with me that the team has a few personal connections to the disease, one of which is through senior Matt Dooley. Dooley’s mother was diagnosed with the debilitating disease almost a decade ago, so when Coach Sachire asked the team for fundraiser ideas, Dooley began researching. “I Googled ‘Notre Dame Multiple Sclerosis’ and nothing came up, so the next day I just passively mentioned to Coach (Sachire) that maybe he should look into it, and fortunately, he really liked the idea and he ran with it,” Dooley said.

“Even as a pre-med student, I’ve looked into the disease to find out what’s happening biologically and it’s frightening,” claimed Dooley. “But how do you explain to somebody how that feels? I still don’t know what my mom goes through and how tired she can get or how it feels having your livelihood taken away from you. It’s something that’s less tangible than a lot of things. With cancer, someone who doesn’t really know anything (about it) can still picture it, but with MS it’s a little more elegant. But it’s attacking the brain, so it’s tougher to explain.”

My mother also suffers from MS, so I’ve done a few projects on it over the years for science classes and I agree with Dooley–it is extremely hard to explain and impossible to empathize–but I’ll do my best to describe it. Multiple Sclerosis is a slow-working disease that attacks the central nervous system—the brain, the spinal cord and the optic nerves. Myelin, the fatty substance that protects the nerve fibers of the CNS, is damaged and forms scar tissue, or sclerosis (where the disease gets its name). The physical symptoms of MS include fatigue, numbness, walking, balance, coordination problems and double vision, along with any side-effects from the medication used to treat and control the disease.

“It’s not a true fundraiser, it’s the beginning of the association with our program and the fight against MS,” said Coach Sachire. Last year, the Notre Dame softball team raised over $15,000 for pediatric oncology research during their Strikeout Cancer Weekend. “Ultimately, one day, 10 years down the road, I’d love to have comparisons with what we do for [MS] and what softball does for leukemia.”

“It’s one of those things where she’ll say I helped, and in my mind I just did what I was always doing,” Dooley revealed, “…but as a 14-year-old-kid, it was like, ‘Let’s just not be a problem.’ You feel helpless and you can’t really do anything.”

Every little bit of awareness spread about MS is a step closer to a cure, so Matt, Coach Sachire and the rest of the team are doing more to help than they probably even realize at this point. Walk MS, Bike MS and MuckFest MS are already three popular fundraising and awareness events for MS. With time and effort, maybe Notre Dame men’s tennis’ “Smash MS” event will be just as prevalent.

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