Your Serve: The Sport of Opportunity
The USTA’s president says tennis is ideally suited to promote higher education among youth.
By Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President
There’s no other sport quite like tennis. It sharpens the mind as it shapes the body. Every time a ball is hit, you need to respond quickly. All the while, you have to be thinking, calculating and planning, as you map out a strategy to be successful against your opponent. The interaction of these mental processes helps keep your mind agile and alert — which is precisely why tennis and education make such fitting partners.
In recent years, the USTA has been taking this synergy to the next level, reasoning that by being the sport that promotes not only fitness and fun but also education, we can attract many more people to tennis. By being the sport of opportunity — and spreading the word about the opportunities we offer — we not only can fulfill our mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis, but also we can do our part to enhance the lives of those who get involved in our great game.
In championing one of the true mind-body sports, the USTA now has in place a tremendous infrastructure that can support and promote higher education among America’s youth. It has a rich array of delivery systems, programs and allied partners that reaches kids of all ages and is committed to diversity and inclusion, including USTA Serves, USTA National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), USTA School Tennis, USTA Jr. Team Tennis, USTA Tennis On Campus, USTA Player Development and Tennis in the Parks.
NJTL provides a wide range of free tennis and education programming across the country that helps better prepare kids for college and beyond. Scholarship and assistance opportunities made possible through USTA Serves help make college accessible to youngsters of all abilities. And once they’re on campus, students not only can be on a varsity team or play club tennis (through USTA Tennis On Campus), they also can get involved with bringing tennis to other kids through such initiatives as Kids’ Tennis Clubs, Play Days, Campus Kids Days, Campus Showdowns and Campus QuickStart.
This year alone, USTA Serves will help to enhance health and educational opportunities for approximately 300,000 young people and individuals with disabilities. 90% of high school seniors in USTA Serves after-school funded programs are graduating from high school, and 91% of scholarship recipients are attending college for four years. These are numbers of which we are particularly proud.
Indeed, through these innovative programs, we have made some real inroads in growing our sport and enhancing people’s lives. But there still is work to be done. That’s why I made it a priority last year to assemble a Tennis and Higher Education Task Force to look into ways to encourage parents to choose tennis for their kids, based on the tremendous opportunities — especially in education — that tennis can provide. Chaired by David Benjamin, Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and with former NYC Mayor David Dinkins serving as the Honorary Chair, the task force has been determining how the USTA can best promote the importance and value of every American youngster obtaining a college education — and to convey the message that tennis is the sport of opportunity for achieving this goal.
The USTA’s commitment to supporting and promoting higher education is in lockstep with the nation’s priority to expand the promise of education. Once the world’s leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, the U.S. has fallen to 12th among the 36 nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. With more than a million kids dropping out of high school every year, America’s ability to compete in a global economy has been severely tested. Restoring America’s leadership in higher education clearly requires a myriad of strategies and solutions.
Serving up tennis as the sport of opportunity is among them. By helping to open the doors of higher education to more of America’s students, the USTA is working to make a difference in communities across the country — not only by growing the game but also by enhancing the lives of those who play it.
Jon Vegosen has been USTA Chairman of the Board and President for the 2011-2012 term. He leaves office Dec. 31, 2012.