Take the Offensive
We’re fighting a battle in my town — and it’s probably similar to what many of you may have gone through. Our park and rec director has proposed a wonderful new public recreation area that includes tennis courts. However, after presenting exhaustive evidence in support of the park to a town agency, including modifying the plans to answer the agency’s concerns, they voted 3-2 to deny the application.
This denial caused a stir in town for a number of reasons (in fact, the town selectmen are looking into the matter), but I’ll save that bit of controversy for our town paper’s “letters” page. My concern is that — despite strong support from the avid players in town and Community Tennis Association members — we didn’t do enough to “sell” tennis to the rest of our community.
In most communities, the more people you can have stand up in support of tennis — or write letters to the papers, or show up at town meetings — the better chance you have of actually making decisions go your way. Getting the word out about this sport to the community, pointing up all the great things about tennis, how it enhances the quality of life for residents, fights childhood obesity, makes people active and healthy, can go a long way to turning public opinion — and the minds of hesitant public officials — your way.
Public parks and schools are where most people start playing the game. It’s where tomorrow’s frequent players come from. Public courts — like the facility we hope one day to have built in our town (the park and rec director is planning on re-applying for the park soon) — are exactly what every municipality needs.
The USTA, TIA. and National Recreation and Park Association recognize this, and they provide resources and grants to help make public park courts and programs happen. (And by the way, thanks to lobbying by the NRPA, money from the national economic stimulus plan can be used for park and rec projects, including tennis. Visit nrpa.org for more information.) In our case, we even received a generous grant from the USTA New England Section to build these courts. Now, though, that money may have to be returned.
The lesson from our town is, start selling your community on tennis now. Write letters to the papers about some of the great things tennis can do or is doing for your community. Be vocal about supporting things like your local high-school no-cut programs, or a Cardio Tennis clinic, or leagues, or kids’ programs. Let others in the community know that not only is tennis out there, but that it’s got a lot of support, and supporters.
In other words, lay the groundwork — now.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.