The ABCs of Tennis
A former elementary school teacher and new Tennis Service Rep says it all starts in the schools.
The ABCs of tennis lie within the schools. Introducing tennis to students, delivering it to them, providing an opportunity for them — that is what bringing tennis into the schools across America is all about. And that is how I can reach children so they will fall in love with tennis, like I did.
In so many things we do, we do them because of our experience. We do them because of what we went through or what we didn’t go through but would have liked to. For instance, I would have loved to have been introduced to tennis in elementary school. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have participated or have been reached somehow by the USTA in the small city I grew up in.
I became an elementary school teacher, fifth grade. I taught math, reading, spelling, history, and science at an inner-city school near Minneapolis. After school, I ran across town to teach pee wee and youth tennis at the Park & Rec. It was a passion of mine, teaching the sport that meant a lot to me growing up, and still does.
After about five years, teachers and students heard that I did this on the side, so I started talking about it in class, telling my students how great tennis is and how much fun it is. Many of my students had never held a tennis racquet before, had never hit a ball over a net.
At my school, kids were not being introduced to tennis in phys ed class. When I asked why, I was told that the main reasons were that phys ed teachers didn’t have the proper equipment and that they didn’t know how to teach tennis.
I decided to offer an after-school tennis program. Right from the start, I had a full class. Kids came running out to the courts in the back of the school to have the chance to hold a tennis racquet, and I was proud to be able to give them that opportunity.
Tennis starts in schools. Kids get hooked and then join park & rec programs. Kids decide they are good and like it and want to take classes and then private lessons. Then they join their high school teams, which leads to playing in college and playing for fun, while getting friends together to play in leagues. And they play throughout life.
One of the many positive and wonderful roles as a new Tennis Service Representative in the USTA Northern Section is that I get a chance to bring tennis into every school that I can. I promote, develop, and grow tennis at the elementary, junior high, middle school, high school, and even college.
What motivates me and makes me feel like I have one of the best jobs on earth is that I am able to share my love for the game with hundreds of school kids and that I get to educate teachers, parents, and administrators on how to teach tennis and how to let kids learn this wonderful game. We’re here to help; it’s our job to bring tennis to them.
In North Dakota, which is my area as a TSR, there are so many schools untouched by the USTA, so many phys ed teachers who could benefit from the schools program, so many kids just waiting to get hooked on tennis.
In my first two months as a TSR, I’ve seen the need for tennis in schools. I’ve seen how many phys ed teachers’ eyes light up when they see their students actually hitting the ball back and forth. So many conversations I have had with teachers have ended in complete joy after they hear what the USTA Schools Program can do for them.
I’ve heard from and met with several high school coaches who are begging me to go into schools that feed into their high school programs. I’ve met with several local tennis leaders who would love to have the chance to get tennis in schools, which in turn would get kids into local tennis programs. I’ve talked with college coaches who are willing to have their teams go out into the schools to promote tennis.
Success to me is seeing the benefit of getting tennis into schools and being able to make that happen. Seeing how many schools want and need the USTA to help with this is amazing and motivating. Getting the right equipment into schools so teachers and students can succeed is vital. I’m honored to be able to provide the transition balls, racquets, positive energy, instruction, and the push for tennis so the kids can have fun and succeed.
Seeing firsthand how high a priority getting tennis into schools is in my area has been one of the major successes of my first two months as a TSR. Being able to help with this is the most rewarding feeling one can have.
See all articles by Hayley Horning Shibley
About the Author
Hayley Horning Shibley is a former elementary school teacher, and serves as Tennis Service Representative in the USTA Northern Section and is based in Fargo, N.D. She also has been a USPTA-certified teaching pro in Grand Rapids, Mich.