Grassroots Tennis: Play It Forward!
CTAs, public parks, schools and NJTLs are on the front lines when it comes to growing this sport in communities.
USTA Northern: It’s ‘Friday Night Lights’ For Kids in Fargo
Looking for high school kids on Friday nights in Fargo, N.D.? Now you can find more than 60 of them playing tennis at Courts Plus Community Fitness as part of its new “Friday Night Lights” High School Junior Team Tennis program. Players from Fargo Sheyenne, Shanley, Davies and South high schools are all participating, as well as teams from West Fargo and Valley City (who drive over 60 miles to play). They’re all getting valuable match-play opportunities, followed by pizza and social time.
Last November at the USTA’s Tennis Development Workshop in San Diego, Courts Plus head pro Oliver Summers heard about World Team Tennis (WTT) — a co-ed program where kids play singles, doubles and mixed doubles as part of a team and use a total-games-won format, and where cheering is encouraged during play. He thought it would be a great way for girls’ and boys’ high school tennis team members to play together.
“I’m excited with how it’s going,” he says. “We asked the kids which night would be best, and surprisingly, they said Friday, which was great because we often have open courts then. Each team has at least 10 players and each team’s organizer is their high school head or assistant coach. Plus, the parents have gotten involved.”
“I used to feel some pressure on Friday to go out just for the sake of going out,” one participant says. “But now I play tennis and it’s awesome.”
Another player agreed, “You get to be with your friends and meet new people. I love that we play against other teams, have fun and work on tennis. Afterwards we all go out, or see a movie, or just hang out. Tennis is now what I do on Friday nights!”
— Lisa Mushett
USTA Eastern: Partnering With Schools in Orange County, N.Y.
Orange County, N.Y., has had a recent resurgence of tennis players, in large part for the work that Ari Roberts, director of MatchPoint Tennis, has been doing. He’s built a relationship with the local YMCA to facilitate after-school tennis programming in more than six school districts in the county.
With kid-friendly equipment, shorter courts, and instant-play games and activities, it’s easier than ever for tennis and providers to connect with schools to grow their programs. The USTA has developed a specific curriculum and training program for introducing tennis in phys-ed classes, which can provide a strong foundation for connecting kids to additional play opportunities.
MatchPoint hosted a tennis carnival for all Goshen, N.Y. Intermediate School Tennis program participants and had more than 60 kids attend — with 30 signing up for programming. (Roberts has shown that you can teach large groups in small spaces — and quite successfully, too!) Once school permission is obtained, conducting phys-ed class visits introduces tennis to large numbers of students and familiarizes them with the local programs and/or facilities. Partnering with a school is a great way to attract more kids to the game and grow your business!
As community development chairperson, Roberts, along with USTA Eastern, have produced a short video called “Tennis Anywhere,” highlighting how much fun kids have playing tennis off-court. (Visit eastern.usta.com/videos.)
Partnering with schools to make tennis grow and expose more players to tennis will enrich the lives of youngsters and make club owners more successful!
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