Tennis Industry magazine


Community Tennis: Serving Up Dreams

By joining with the NJTL network, the USTA Foundation is bringing tennis, education and healthy habits to kids.

By E.J. Crawford

Three years ago, the USTA Foundation combined forces with the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network. The marriage joined the Foundation’s mission to utilize tennis and education to make a difference with the NJTL’s network of 350 programs nationwide serving more than 200,000 students, most often in under-resourced communities. And the union has yielded spectacular results.

This year, the USTA Foundation surpassed $25 million in total giving — including nearly $3 million in 2016 alone — with the primary beneficiary being NJTL programs and their students throughout the United States. The result is more kids off the streets and on tennis courts, learning healthy habits and leading active lifestyles, all while being immersed in the NJTL’s ACE Curriculum, an out-of-school academic offering designed to improve kids’ attitudes and behaviors around math, literacy and school climate.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had the privilege to reach out to communities across the country, to support their great work and ensure that everyone who takes part in our programs has the opportunity to achieve their dreams,” says USTA President Katrina Adams.

USTA Foundation Chairman James Blake knows this better than most. He got his start at an NJTL, the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, using that as a springboard to Harvard. His professional tennis career included 10 tour titles and a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world.

“I always joked that my parents were too cheap to pay for a babysitter,” Blake says of enrolling at HJTEP. “But really, I loved it from the start.”

Now Blake and the USTA Foundation are working to ensure that a new generation of children has that same chance to fall in love with the game.

“In order to better serve youth from under-resourced communities, we must continue to expand our programming on and off the court,” says USTA Foundation Executive Director Dan Faber. “This will in turn help the USTA Foundation raise more money that will allow us to continue to serve more kids.”

This is a model with proven success. More than 90 percent of USTA Foundation scholarship recipients attend college for four years, and studies have shown that kids who play tennis are healthier and less prone to risky behaviors. Additionally, in 2016 the Foundation’s capacity-building initiative helped 29 NJTL chapters increase youth participation from 74,000 in 2014 to nearly 80,000.

“Our mission, goal and guiding light is to utilize tennis and education to make a difference,” Blake says. “Serving up dreams isn’t just a marketing slogan. It’s what we do.”

To support the NJTL network, visit



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