Grassroots Tennis: Play It Forward!
CTAs, public parks and NJTLs are on the front lines when it comes to growing this sport in communities.
In Hastings, Tennis is for Everyone
Nine years ago, Sadie Reiners was looking for junior competition for her daughter, Taylor, so she could qualify for the Minnesota State High School Tournament. Not finding much help in the surrounding communities, Reiners took it upon herself to develop players, so she started the Hastings Tennis Association. From its two initial members, HTA now has over 160 members and was named USTA Northern’s 2015 Member Organization of the Year.
The HTA’s mission is to inspire people of all ages to live an active lifestyle, instill that all members are mentors and leaders, and create a love for the game. Initially running only competitive junior offerings, the HTA now offers recreational programming that includes drills, lessons, leagues, clinics, Play Days, adult and junior tournaments and Junior Team Tennis.
More than 110 kids participated in 2015 and the HTA fielded eight JTT teams — three advanced to the JTT Section Championships and Hastings Blue 14U won the Intermediate title. Team Blue represented USTA Northern at Nationals in December, where they finished 12th and claimed the Team Spirit Award. Player Colby Zak also took home the Boys Sportsmanship Award.
The HTA has big plans for 2016, including bringing tennis to day-care programs operated by the school district and the YMCA and the Hastings Senior Center. In addition, it will be hosting “Rally the Family” events starting in May.
“We believe tennis is for everyone,” Reiners says. “We try to make tennis fun. Players are encouraged to give back by mentoring youth and beginning players. And we strive to be inclusive and affordable to all interested in playing.” — Lisa Mushett
Family Fun Day Partners with 2K Run
First there was tennis. Then running, and tennis. Then much more running, followed by much more tennis. It was all part of a day that featured two sports and multiple organizations coming together to promote something valuable to both: an active, healthy lifestyle.
USTA Middle States and its community partners in the Philadelphia area partnered with youth running organization iRun4Life last spring at Central Park in Doylestown, Pa., as part of the section’s first-ever Free Family Fun Day, which took place throughout the day and offered free tennis to families from all over the area. The partnership with iRun4Life connected tennis to nearly 1,000 kids participating in a morning 2k run. Before and after the race, the kids were encouraged to try tennis on the park’s public courts, which were full of local tennis professionals who donated their time to provide one-on-one training to the kids.
When not on the tennis courts, there were prizes, giveaways and other games available for the kids. A special emphasis was placed on families and staying active together. While kids played on some courts, there were professionals there to work with adults as well.
Middle States also provided the chance for kids to continue playing after they left the event. Information packets were handed out with local play opportunities and junior programs, connecting the families to local programs.
The partnership is expected to continue in the coming years, helping to introduce the sport of tennis to thousands more.
— Michael Gladysz
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