It started by hitting balls against a wall. For then four-year-old Amir C., he had no choice to be at the tennis courts with his grandparents and brother who was training and competing in tennis at a higher level. To pass the time, he would hit balls against a wall, but everything changed when someone saw a talent in him that couldn’t be ignored. Red ball, orange ball, green ball, he improved through the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s youth tennis progression and now at 11 years old, is expertly competing in junior tournaments throughout the Mid-Atlantic and nationally.
But for Amir’s family, he and his brother Mikeal’s competitive tennis mean a lot of sacrifices especially financially. The boys are being raised by their grandparents and since they are retired the family has limited income. But they’ve had support from USTA Mid-Atlantic’s scholarship program for both boys over the years to help cover some costs such as travel to major tournaments. And there are many families just like this one, whose children are dreaming big and performing on the tennis court that need help to keep those dreams going. You can be the one that supports the dream and makes a difference.
“I fully support the Mid-Atlantic scholarship program,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother, a tennis player herself and along with the boys’ grandfather, their primary caregiver. “It is extremely hard financially, and the scholarships that we have been fortunate enough to get have been a life saver. It has assisted us in paying tournament fees and travel costs.”
As can be the case in competitive junior tennis, costs to train and travel tend to increase as young athletes progress. For highly competitive junior tournament players, their tennis experience and development includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the tennis court training and frequent purchases of new equipment.
These costs can be a significant barrier for many families in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially those of low-income. This can mean some families are faced with really tough financial decisions – pay the bills or play tennis.
At USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, our ultimate vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis. We don’t want any child precluded from playing tennis because of financial challenges. We know how important and powerful it is to provide youth a healthy, empowering and enriching activity that can launch the next generation into a successful future.
That’s why we have a scholarship program that supports high performance junior players in need and you can help more kids grow through tennis when you support our programs too.
When Mikeal and Amir were younger, their grandparents began totting the boys along to the courts. It was only natural that both boys got into the sport. Older brother Mikeal fell in love with tennis and began competing in tournaments when he was seven. Now, he is 17 and is looking into playing Division I collegiate tennis.
“Whatever the amount of the scholarship, we have put it to great use on the kids. It has allowed them to be able to play the bigger tournaments that we would otherwise not be able to afford to participate in. They both have really improved their tennis by being able to compete at some of these national tournaments,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother.
She also says that tennis has truly shaped the boys lives for the better, giving the boys friends for life and the know-how to treat and respect their friends. She says they have learned good sportsmanship and integrity, and how to be organized thanks to tennis. And that the sport has made them want to have healthier habits and keeps them grounded.
She adds, “We really appreciate the funds we receive for their tennis. The expenses add up really fast, especially if you have more than one player to support. So much is needed and the scholarship program is a great help to families.”
Last year, USTA Mid-Atlantic was able to provide six players scholarships that totaled $2,500.
We want and need to do more for our youth and families in the Mid-Atlantic that may be struggling financially but that are striving for excellence on the tennis court. Are you able to make a gift and support our scholarship and other programs that help keep kids in the sport?
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service and has the Guide Star Silver Seal of Transparency.