He Struggled to Belong Until Tennis Came into his Life

I believe in the power of tennis and its ability to change lives and want to share my story and tell you how you can help more kids by showing your support to USTA Mid-Atlantic.

Issac PhotoMy name is Jill and my story involves my 8 year-old son, Issac. He is on the autism spectrum and has always struggled to find a place where he belongs. We tried to involve Issac in many different activities with little success and sports in general had been hard for him – that was until tennis came into his life.

Two years ago, we moved to a new town in West Virginia and Issac participated in the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s TGA Premier Youth Tennis Summer Camp program, and he LOVED it! It was one-on-one and just about him, the court, and the ball.  For the first time, he was able to focus and give his full attention to a sport.

Issac showed aptitude in tennis and  wanted to continue to take the sport even further. He now participates in the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s TGA Premier Youth Tennis After School Program which has helped him build his self-confidence, independence, listening skills and social skills.  The program is about so much more than just the sport and it has truly been life changing for Issac and our family.  Issac’s school work has improved,  he is more focused and now he has an outlet for physical activity.Issac Boyce

Most importantly, Issac has a place where he feels like he belongs. He has a self-identity and is gaining important social skills through tennis that will help him in the future, which, as a mom, gives me peace of mind.

I am so grateful to the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s Youth Tennis After School and Summer Camp programs. We live in West Virginia, where tennis programs are few.  Because of USTA Mid-Atlantic’s commitment to bringing tennis to every child in the Section, my son was able to find  a program and a place where he could thrive. Through the power of tennis, he has discovered his passion and talent.  He takes great pride in that and so do I.

As you may know, USTA Mid-Atlantic’s tennis after school and summer camp program provides low-cost tennis programming in safe and convenient environments. Tennis is used to help kids learn science, math and technology concepts along with lessons in sportsmanship and decision making.  Since the program started,  USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached 9,000 kids throughout Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  It has been highly rated by school administrators, educators and parents alike.

Tennis is creating a future for Issac and so many other kids.  A gift of $100.74 covers the cost of equipment, a high quality curriculum, and instruction for one child in the program. So far this year, the USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached more than 3,649 kids through the youth tennis after school and summer camp program. Our goal is to reach more than 4,200 kids in 2019. 

I ask that you join me and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section and their youth tennis programs this year with your year-end gift- give the gift of tennis to a child just like Issac.  My family and I love the after school tennis program and want the USTA Mid-Atlantic to be able to bring the program to more kids that need it. Together, we have the power to help the USTA Mid-Atlantic make tennis the most accessible and most played sport for young people throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Thank you for taking time to read about Issac, the power of tennis and the power of USTA Mid- Atlantic to change a life.

Sincerely,

Jill

Proud Parent, USTA Mid-Atlantic TGA Premier Youth Tennis Program

P.S. Your gift of $100.74 will help a child, just like Issac, who enters the TGA Premier Youth Tennis Program in the Mid-Atlantic realize the possibilities the future holds.

Top Things we are Thankful For About Tennis

At  USTA Mid-Atlantic we often say tennis is so much more than a game played with a racquet and ball. We believe tennis is a culture, a community and a passion that builds character, enhances your life and makes you who you are.

With the Thanksgiving season here, we started thinking and talking about the sport we love and why we are so thankful to not only be working to grow the game and get more we-love-mid-atlantic-tennispeople playing but also simply why we. LOVE. Tennis. So. Much!

So we started a list of things about tennis we are so thankful for and appreciate. By reflecting on this appreciation we hope more people can understand why tennis is special and feel motivated to show their support during the charitable giving season to ensure all people in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially children, get to experience the benefits of a game that gives back in so many ways. Our list is by no means complete so we definitely want to hear from you on what you would add too. Here goes:

Tennis makes us thankful for…. 

What would you add to the list that we have not included? Leave a comment or tweet us (@USTAMidAtlantic) with your comment using #ThankfulforTennis.

 

Unique Partnership Breaks Down Barriers to Tennis

Building confidence. Developing character. Acquiring the skills needed to become productive, responsible adults.

That’s what the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (BGCGW) strives to do for the youth in their clubs.

These aspects are also what USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, delivers to young people through the sport of tennis, while also giving kids a physical outlet and path to friendships and fun that can stay with them for a lifetime. USTA Mid-Atlantic depends on contributions and donations to succeed on the mission to not only grow tennis but to change lives and improve communities through the sport.

With synergies apparent, USTA Mid-Atlantic and BGCGW partnered together during the summer of 2018 to bring tennis to kids age 5 – 18 that did not have access to the sport. Nearly half of the population served by BGCGW lives at or below poverty level, and in populations such as these, most don’t have access to tennis. Thanks to the USTA Mid-Atlantic, more than 400 of these kids got the feel of the racquet, most for the very first time.

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USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis to two BGCGW locations including the Culmore Club and the Martin K. Alloy Club of Manassas. For the Culmore club, participants came from Bailey’s Elementary, Glasgow Middle School and Glen Forest Elementary, in Fairfax County, Va. Counselors-in-training also joined, all of which were from Justice High School in Falls Church, Va. For the Martin K. Alloy Club at least 20 different schools were represented as part of Prince William County Public School District, Manassas City School District, or Manassas Park City School District.

Over the course of 10 weeks, USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis summer camp programming, which introduces tennis through fun and enriching experiences, incorporates STEM concepts and builds life skills such as respect, honesty, decision-making and sportsmanship through the game.20180817_105322-1242007325-1540390083859.jpg

USTA Mid-Atlantic provided verified and trained coaches to run the tennis programming along with the racquets, balls, curriculum and fun. The children didn’t just learn how to hit forehands and backhands. They learned about the benefits that come with playing tennis, such as:

  • Tennis is great exercise. It uses every muscle in the body and is a sport that they can play for their entire life;
  • Anyone can play tennis no matter their ability, and families can play together;
  • Sportsmanship, honesty and friendship are the all at the forefront of playing tennis.

Thanks to grant funding secured by USTA Mid-Atlantic, the tennis program was provided to the participants of the BGCGW at no cost.

“Because of the USTA Mid-Atlantic program over the summer, our kids were able to get exposed to a sport that they would not normally get the opportunity to participate in,” said Yolanda Gales, program director for Culmore Boys & Girls Club. “While it was hot and at times the weather seemed to not be as dry as they would have liked, they all enjoyed going out and being allowed to hit balls with each other while learning different techniques.”20180817_105251-2643274327-1540389946660.jpg

For USTA Mid-Atlantic, it is the highest priority to have all children in the Mid-Atlantic play tennis and experience the life-long benefits that come from the game – no matter their background, zip code, resources or ability.

“Our vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis because we see first-hand how the sport transforms lives and helps kids gain qualities that will serve them on and off the tennis court,” said Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro, chief executive officer of USTA Mid-Atlantic. “We were excited to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington because together we were able to break down barriers and help kids find new qualities in themselves that they may not ever have imagined were there by sampling a new sport.”

Gales said some kids enjoyed learning the ins and outs of a new sport as well as being exposed to something different.

“Getting the kids involved in something out of their norm is what the Boys & Girls Clubs attempts do with partnerships like the one with USTA Mid-Atlantic,” Gales said. “Most of our elementary and middle schoolers are not given the opportunity to play sports after school unless they are playing for the Boys & Girls Club. And because most of our children come from below poverty income households, getting exposed to anything outside of what they are able to play in their front yards seems impossible to obtain.”

Gales is grateful that USTA Mid-Atlantic invested in the future of hundreds of local kids and is hopeful that the partnership will continue.

“We would love to have the opportunity to have USTA Mid-Atlantic come again during the school year,” she said.

This school year, USTA Mid-Atlantic is delivering their tennis programming after school in both Prince William and Fairfax counties, with hopes of expanding into many of the schools that serve the BGCGW participants. With tennis programming being provided immediately following the school day within school buildings, the organization aims to create a safe environment that gives kids a positive outlet and shows them the way to healthy habits for life and continues the lessons learned during the summer.

But support is needed to make programs like the one delivered this summer with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington available for low to no-cost to the students in these under-resourced communities.

With your help, USTA Mid-Atlantic can bring more tennis programs to these kids and meet the goal of reaching 4,256 youth with after school tennis programming and enrichment. You can show your support by making a donation today.  


 

Harry Holtzclaw is an intern with USTA Mid-Atlantic. Harry is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreation Management from James Madison University.

 

 

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Hunter Koontz

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section and how lives are positively shaped by tennis. Just a few weeks ago, stand-out Mid-Atlantic player Hunter Koontz made his professional tennis tournament debut at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. And while this was a momentous moment, what’s more impressive is how he is influencing lives on and off the court too.

If you talk to diehard tennis fans about the Citi Open, a professional tennis tournament in Washington D.C., and ask them their favorite time to go to the event, most will say the first weekend. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “but why?”  That’s simple: The first Saturday and Sunday of the event, professional ATP and WTA players are walking the grounds freely to their practice courts (tip: snag those autographs and selfies!) and you can watch local players grinding it out to get one step closer to the Main Draw.

And such was the case for Richmond native, Hunter Koontz. You may know him as a top ranked junior player in Mid-Atlantic or stand out player at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), but at Citi Open on Sunday, July 29, Koontz was leaving it all out on the court battling France’s Vincent Millots (11) in Round 1 of Men’s Qualifying.

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Mid-Atlantic standout, Hunter Koontz serves during his first professional tennis tournament appearance

A set down, the second set got tighter and the cheers got louder. In the stands were Koontz’s former high school teammates from Deep Run High School (Richmond, VA), friends from Virginia Tech, fellow Richmond natives, and the loudest of all – Country Club of Virginia members. Koontz, an Assistant Tennis Pro at the Country Club of Virginia, noted “a few of the CCV members were really bringing the fire with the cheering which really meant a lot to me.”  Obviously Koontz has played hundreds of tennis matches in his lifetime, but this one in particular gave him a little extra energy to take the second set with all of the support in the stands.

Blaine Davies, a former high school tennis teammate at Deep Run, was in the stands living every point with Koontz. “The coolest part of watching Hunter play was that I know it had to be inspiring for any Richmond kids in the crowd to see someone from our area competing at a professional tennis tournament.”  To that point, Koontz hopes he can inspire the juniors he works with at CCV to reach their tennis goals and cultivate the next generation of greats in his hometown. Working with CCV Head of Junior Tennis, Mason Wright, Koontz focuses on junior league play and game-planning clinics to help youth excel on and off the court.

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Koontz inspiring the next generation of tennis greats, signing autographs for young fans

While Koontz couldn’t hold off Millots in the third set he was “happy those that came to support got to see a fun match with some exciting points” at his first professional tennis tournament.

Davies, who recently joined the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section staff as a recreation programs assistant, was smiling ear to ear as Koontz walked off that court. “What sticks out for me the most is how lucky I was growing up playing tennis in Richmond. Hunter was such a supportive teammate; he created a strong team culture and helped everyone improve.” Koontz may not realize the impact he has made in his local community with each individual he has come across on the tennis court. Luckily, when asked about his five year plan, Koontz responded “I would like to think I will be in Richmond teaching tennis and helping as many people as I can.” Also on the agenda is marrying his fiancé, Madison, in June 2019. “Things could look a lot different in five years. Perhaps I will have started to work on Hunter Jr.’s hand-eye coordination by then…”

TGA: A Game Changer for Mid-Atlantic Kids

When you first walk in to the school gym it hits you – the sounds of laughter, fun, and excitement with a distinct buzz of energy. You hear kids happily shouting to a friend, “ok, your turn to hit it to me now!”  As you scan the room, you see faces with smiles that are contagious, and others deep in skillful concentration. There is action everywhere controlled by the coaches in the room that are in the middle of it all, encouraging and guiding the students through their activities.

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This is what you see at a typical TGA Premier Youth Tennis after school program in the Mid-Atlantic.  What you may not see right away though is how this program is changing and benefiting lives – not just through physical activity that all kids need, but through the life lessons the kids are learning and enrichment they are getting through STEM activities too. Review the stats on the impact the program is having, and one can understand why this is a game changer for kids and the sport of tennis in the Mid-Atlantic.

USTA Mid-Atlantic has been offering TGA Premier Youth tennis after school and out-of-school time programs since 2016. In 2017, nearly 4,000 kids in communities across Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia were given the chance to learn tennis and develop personal qualities such as respect, honesty, decision-making and sportsmanship. These kids come from all types of communities – notably, 37 percent of the schools where programs are established service under resourced communities where at least 50 percent of the student population is enrolled in the National Free or Reduced Meal Program.

For some, especially those in under resourced communities, having this type of enrichment program accessible to them is a rarity. This is why USTA Mid-Atlantic is so committed to bringing the program to all types of communities to ensure that kids have a chance to learn tennis, build friendships, develop life skills and play.

We want to reach even more kids and offer these programs at little to no cost to every school in the Mid-Atlantic, but we need your help.

With our spring programs wrapped up and summer programs in action, we are making strong progress to introduce kids to tennis and break down the barriers that get in the way. We need you to help us keep the momentum going and ensure the impact and positive change doesn’t stop.

Here are just some highlights of what we’ve done so far in 2018 in a few of our program areas.

West Virginia

Our TGA after school tennis programs in West Virginia service some of the most under resourced communities, with programs taking place in schools where 100 percent of the student body qualifies for the National Free or Reduced Meal Program. We hit a record of having more than 300 children participating in one season and this spring, 15 scholarships were distributed. Be a game changer and help ensure more kids can get active and play.

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Prince William County, Va.

Prince William is one of our newest areas to offer tennis enrichment programs and one of the most economically diverse as well. The program achieved 300 percent growth for participation compared to the fall 2017 season and awarded more than $800 in scholarships so kids can play. Be a game changer and help us make tennis the most accessible sport in the Mid-Atlantic.

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Loudoun County, Va.

One of our original program areas, students participating in after school and out-of-school time programs are seeing their dedication pay off. Our TGA programs allow players to progress through a five-level color coded path at their own pace. They start at yellow and work toward black level which indicates a strong level of awareness and understanding of the game as well as demonstrated leadership among peers. This spring, two kids participated at the black level which is a first for the Mid-Atlantic. Be a game changer and help us put more kids on the path to success.

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Richmond, Va.

In Richmond, TGA programs were offered at Bensley Elementary which the most economically disadvantaged school in Chesterfield County, servicing a school population with 86 percent qualifying for the National Free or Reduced Meals Program. At this school we were able to award 16 partial scholarships to participants. Be a game changer and help us ensure all kids no matter their background, location, resources, access or ability precludes them from learning the sport of tennis.

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This is just a start; think of what could happen if you help us do even more

Will you help us make it possible for one more child to experience playing tennis? With every gift, USTA Mid-Atlantic moves one step closer to our vision of bringing tennis to all young people and communities in the Mid-Atlantic and breaking down barriers to entry and play.  Make a tax-deductible gift today to support a new player in the game, one who can champion the sport for others for a lifetime.

If you want to learn more about how USTA Mid-Atlantic is making an impact as a charitable 501(c)3 non-profit, visit www.usta.com/midatlanticimpact and continue to visit our blog for inspiring stories of our tennis community.