GrassrootsTennis: Play It Forward!
Pacific Northwest: Creating Opportunities in New Communities
It’s a warm summer evening at Seattle’s Solstice Park, and the courts are filled with dozens of children, teenagers and adults. It’s a session of “Family Friendly Tennis” — family members are on separate courts, by age group, where they play active games that help them with tennis skills. The kids jump up and down whenever they hit the foam ball back to their partner, and the adults cheer their teammates whenever they get the ball past the opposing team.
“I haven’t played since high school and I mostly did it for the kids, but it’s turning out to be really fun for the adults, too,” says one adult participant.
Family Friendly Tennis is one of five “RecTennis” programs offered by USTA Pacific Northwest. The section partners with parks and recreation departments and local schools to provide affordable, introductory programs to new communities. From urban neighborhoods in Seattle to agricultural hubs like Pendleton, Ore., the section’s accessible programs are drawing a new generation of kids and families to the court.
“From creating new tennis jobs to providing health and wellness activities to children and families, it is exciting to see RecTennis positively impact communities across the Pacific Northwest,” says USTA PNW Executive Director Matthew Warren.
— Erika Harmon
Florida: ‘Tennis for Fun’ Serves up Hugs
Don’t expect a handshake when you attend one of Judy Moore’s “Tennis for Fun” clinics. Instead, expect a hug. That’s how the popular Florida program’s athletes greet one another. “Hugs when everybody comes, and hugs when everybody leaves,” says Moore.
Moore is the director of Tennis for Fun, a program that teaches tennis to the special-needs community. Her son, Nathan, started the program in 2000 to fulfill community-service requirements in high school. “I taught special education,” Moore says. “They had programs for basketball and soccer, but there wasn’t anything for tennis.”
A tennis player himself, Nathan set specific parameters for his new program: It had to be free and set up for those with special needs. It is run by volunteers who are certified Special Olympics instructors.
In the first year, Nathan had about 15 athletes. Since then, the program has grown, and expanded from Brandon, Fla. to as far as Maine and Minnesota.
“When the athletes leave high school, they lose the connection of seeing their friends every day,” Moore says. “So when they come to tennis every week, it’s a big social event.”
— Rick Vach
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