Grassroots Champion of the Year: Robert Pangrazi
When physical education guru Dr. Robert Pangrazi of Tempe, Ariz., was contacted five years ago by the USTA to revise its school tennis curriculum, he made it clear that he wouldn’t be focusing on the athletically gifted players. Instead, his goal is to encourage students of all levels and abilities to maintain an active lifestyle through adulthood.
Pangrazi’s eight-lesson curriculum is designed for physical education teachers, providing instruction for motivating and managing groups of elementary and secondary school students with a focus on fun, developmentally appropriate activities that build interest, and confidence through instant success. The USTA provides the training, resources, and kid-friendly equipment. And because Pangrazi’s program, now two years old, has benefited millions of students, he is RSI’s Grassroots Champion of the Year.
“Bob has an energy and passion for life. People want to follow his lead,” says Greg Mason, Head/Penn Racquet Sports’ director of sales and marketing, who helped introduce the USTA to Pangrazi. “His ability to channel that energy into programs has taken school tennis to a higher level.”
“Dr. Bob isn’t concerned with competition or winning,” adds Jason Jamison, the USTA’s national schools manager. “He uses physical education to develop character, to make kids better people.”
“I can’t say enough about the USTA’s courage in going above and beyond in its commitment,” says Pangrazi, a renowned author, speaker and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. “They are truly giving the gift of tennis as a lifetime sport that can be played enjoyably and recreationally to the kids who need it most.”
Tips for success
- Rather than lesson-based instruction in specific skills, the USTA School Tennis Curriculum is designed to be kid-friendly and fun, using modified racquets, foam balls and guidelines for creating a play area.
- Provide a structured yet nurturing environment in which kids cooperate, respect one another and treat each other as equals.
- Focusing on competing and winning risks alienating the majority. Emphasize a good first experience, and the rest will take care of itself.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.