2007 Municipal facility of the year: Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education
By Kent Oswald
Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, as current head Tina Tharp says, is “not just about hitting tennis balls. We are here to develop young men and young women.”
With public and private funding, AAYTE annually serves more than 11,000 children from age 4 into their teens — usually at no or minimal cost to families — through after-school and community programs stretched to nearly every Philadelphia neighborhood. (Adults can play at the facility for limited hours in summer; during the school year, it’s all for kids.)
AAYTE is not only an impressive physical structure, but the programs are beyond compare. And for 2007, AAYTE is RSI’s Municipal Facility of the Year.
In December 2004, as fundraising continued toward the $12 million cost, ground was broken for a new home in Fairmont Park. The official unveiling took place in April 2006. The 9.2-acre site has eight indoor courts, eight outdoor courts, and a main building with offices, locker rooms, weight room, library, and the Arthur Ashe Reading is Fundamental Room.
Children in the school district are bused in for their phys ed requirement. The academic flagship is a life-skills curriculum. Tennis is obviously a main focus, but it is also the reward for doing homework. Many of the staff developed their backhands as well as their study skills in the program.
“I often hear from people saying, ‘You can tell that’s an AAYTE kid,’” says Tharp, “’[They’re] pleasant, outgoing and always willing to help.’”
Tips for success
- Form partnerships with like-minded organizations.
- Provide a consistency in staff and vision to foster strong relationships with the populations you serve.
- Create a legacy and build a sense of internal commitment by mentoring today’s attendees so they can be tomorrow’s staff.
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.