Tennis Industry magazine


Building Community: Play It Forward!

CTAs, public parks, schools and NJTLs are on the front lines when it comes to growing our sport in communities.

FLORIDA — State Special Olympics Teams with USTA Florida

Athletes reciting the Special Olympics oath kicked off the 45th Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games in June at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, where USTA Florida staff and volunteers assisted approximately 150 tennis athletes.

“Volunteer Cindy Harkins has been our ambassador working with Special Olympics Florida in our partnership to grow statewide participation to 5,000 athletes,” says USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth. “She volunteered to be the tournament director, and has worked hard to make the sport more accessible using 36- and 60-foot courts and Red, Orange and Green balls.”

Athletes participated in a skills event and varied levels of ROG match play. USTA Florida gave each athlete a tennis towel to commemorate the event.

“USTA Florida staff and volunteers were joined by five outstanding USTA-certified officials who volunteered,” Harkins says. “Nine local pros and tennis enthusiasts volunteered as skills-event leaders and on-court monitors and scorekeepers.” Forty local volunteers also assisted.

In 2014, USTA Florida and the Section Foundation teamed with Special Olympics Florida to provide tennis play opportunities, provide local training and operate the Summer Games.

— Rick Vach

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA — Volunteer Vincent Owens Honored for Youth Program

Longtime USTA Northern California Diversity and Inclusion Committee member Vincent Owens has always had a passion for tennis. He has also had a passion for giving back to his community. Through his work at UPS, which also is a partner with the United Way, he was able to combine both passions.

In 2002, Owens and former Mills College tennis coach Mark Weinstein started the Mills Community Tennis Program (MCTP), an athletic and educational program for 7- to 10-year-olds.

“Combining tennis and education was something I desired to do, and when I saw how isolated tennis was for minorities, it just made sense to bring tennis to them,” Owens says.

“I really wanted to get kids onto [college] campuses to give them something to aspire to.”

Over the past 16 years, Owens has raised $250,000 for MCTP, on top of the countless hours he has spent teaching tennis. In April, he and UPS were recognized by USTA NorCal for their efforts in supporting MCTP.

“It’s important to get kids involved in education and tennis,” Owens says, “and by having the program on campuses, we get to both.”

— Mylene Mukhar



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