Grassroots Tennis: Play It Forward!
CTAs, public parks, schools and NJTLs are on the front lines when it comes to growing our sport in communities.
Life, and Tennis, On the Border
On the U.S.-Mexico border, there’s a town called Nogales, Ariz., with a population of 22,000. Just across the line to Mexico is Nogales, Sonora, with a population of more than 400,000. Now, a bi-national organization is looking to improve the lives of the youngsters who live in both cities through tennis, education and cross-border interaction.
Called BYTE — Border Youth Tennis Exchange — the NJTL has been developing partners on both sides of the line, including USTA Southwest, the USTA Southern Arizona district, the University of Arizona and the Green Valley (Ariz.) Tennis Association.
Charlie Cutler founded BYTE late last year. Originally from Portland, Ore., Cutler is a former pro player who was ranked as high as No. 1420 on the ATP tour. He has a master’s degree in International Human Rights and started teaching tennis in Nogales after he took an internship there with the nonprofit Border Community Alliance. Now, BYTE “is an NJTL from all aspects — the tennis aspect and the educational aspect,” Cutler says. We’ve begun to create a mirror curriculum on both sides of the border.
“I think the most important question this project asks is, how do we want to interact as countries? The answer would probably be to find a way to connect on a human level, connect the communities that are in the trenches dealing with these issues.”
Kids Join ‘Mini-Tennis Tour’ in Puerto Rico
Nearly 200 youngsters ages 8 to 12 came out for the USTA Caribbean Section’s “Mini Tennis Tour” stop in late May at the Honda Tennis Center in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The fun-filled event had the kids playing tennis on shorter courts, using Red, Orange and Green balls and shorter, age-appropriate racquets. Kids 8 and under played with the Red ball, those 8 to 10 years old used the Orange ball and those 10 to 12 used the Green dot ball.
The Bayamon event was the third of five Mini Tennis Tour stops for 2016. The remaining venues will be the San Francisco Tennis Club in San Juan in September and the Mayaguez Racquet Tennis Club in November.
Similar to Play Days, Mini Tennis Tour events are one-day tournaments organized by the Puerto Rico District. “We started these eight or 10 years ago, but it’s evolved quite a bit, so now we try to organize them by beginner, intermediate and advanced levels,” says Monica Carrasquillo, the youth tennis manager for USTA Caribbean Section. “For many kids, it’s their first experience playing tennis.
“We’re very excited. Now, many kids know what the Mini Tennis Tour is and are excited to be a part of it.”
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