Turning Love into Aces

The love for tennis knows no bounds. However, for some families, the cost of tennis can include more than just playing the game. For highly competitive junior players, the cost of tennis includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the court training and frequent purchases of new equipment. Every year, USTA Mid-Atlantic helps support these juniors and their families by providing scholarships that help ease the  financial impact associated with high levels of junior competition. Because of the support we receive from our members, players and donors, we are able to help junior players continue on his or her journey through tennis and becoming an ace both on and off the court. Read about why your support matters and what one scholarship recipient has to say about the impact our scholarships make.

___________________________________________________________

Dear USTA Mid-Atlantic:

My name is Jelani Sarr, and I am 13 years old. All my life I’ve been playing the game I love – tennis. Since no one in my family has ever played tennis, how I started playing tennis is kind of an unusual story.

My story starts with me, my cousin, and my stepdad, waiting for my mom outside of the local library. While she was inside getting books, my stepdad, who I call my Uncle Coach, was trying to keep me and my cousin busy by having us hit some tennis balls against the wall with some old wooden racquets he had in his trunk. I was only three years old. Since that day, I’ve played other sports, like football and wrestling, but I kept coming back to tennis. It just stuck. I’ve been playing competitive tennis ever since.

Tennis has made multiple impacts on my life. For one, I travel to places in the United States that are beautiful! I also meet new friends among my fellow players. When we are not on the tennis court, we don’t see each other as competitors but as friends. My parents’ lives have also been affected because they get to travel with me. They have supported me all my life and have never given up on me; we have grown so much together.

A proud moment for me, where I felt like I have given back to my parents, was when I received a Sportsmanship award after winning my first National tournament. To cap it all off, the tournament sponsor let me wear his Golden State Warriors championship ring. I felt like a real warrior that day!

I would like to say thank you to the USTA Mid-Atlantic scholarship program and to everyone who supports it. This scholarship has been so important to me and my family because it makes me feel good to see my parents receiving something for a change. My parents have worked really hard to provide me with opportunities in the sport of tennis and given me tools to go as far as I can. This scholarship is recognition for all tennis parents and their hard work for turning all their love into our aces.

Sincerely,

Jelani Sarr

___________________________________________________________

Jelani is an avid competitor in tennis tournaments across the nation and one of thousands in the Section that compete year-round with a dream of going pro. Support stories like Jelani’s by making a tax-deductible contribution to USTA Mid-Atlantic today! For more information about our fundraising initiatives, reach out to Helen Li at li@mas.usta.com.

 

A Coach’s Secret to Keeping New Players in the Game

By: Jeremy Carl

What is the easiest way to get any player new to tennis to keep playing?  Whether it’s beginner adults or 10 and under junior players, the ROGY Progression is without a doubt the best way.

For those unfamiliar, ROGY stands for Red, Orange, Green, Yellow – the color of the balls that can be used to teach kids and adult beginners in a more effective way. Red balls are the lowest compression and larger than the traditional yellow ball, meaning they don’t bounce as high and are easier to control. Orange balls have slightly higher compression than red balls and are the same size as yellow balls. The last step before traditional yellow balls is the green ball, which is similar to playing with a yellow ball but slows down the game and helps lengthen rallies through its lower compression.

I have really seen and experienced the benefits of using this progression in two ways:

Jeremy Carl

Jeremy Carl with his daughter accepting his USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year Award in 2016. Photo: Mount Vernon Athletic Club

  1. My own seven-year-old daughter grew up using red balls since age three and half and is now loving playing orange ball level USTA tournaments
  2. Adults in beginner group classes learn how to
    rally from their first-ever tennis class by using red or orange balls from the get go

Here are the top reasons I’ve seen that make the USTA’s ROGY progression is so effective:

  • Helps Incorporate Fun Right Away – More than anything, my daughter loves playing the sport. A big reason for that is by using the ROGY progression throughout her learning process, she learned the sport through a game-based approach. She is not a fan of “drills.” (What kid is?) The only time she does like them is if she comes up with one herself.  Using red and orange balls have allowed her to rally and play games from an early age.
  • Helps Players Learn Situations in Tennis – Tennis is an open sport, and points develop in unexpected ways. However, sometimes lessons are too dependent on hitting in a closed environment, repeatedly hitting a forehand down the line for example.  Every world-class tennis player has learned how to play tennis as a game of situations, not as a game of perfection. Repetition is important but learning how to navigate points is also an extremely important skill to nurture. For example, you can coach players on ball recognition and making contact in the strike zone.

One game to develop these skills can be done by having an orange ball player at one baseline and a partner standing at the other baseline with a ball. The player with the ball tosses it to the other side of the court. Once the ball crosses the net, the player receiving the ball immediately calls out either “Defend,” “Hold,” or “Attack” and catches the ball between their waist and shoulder, slightly out in front of their body. If a player calls out the correct ball recognition and catches it in the strike zone, they get two points.  If a player just does one of the two, they get one point.  You can do this yourself when you go on court with a friend or if you are a coach, have teams compete against each other in class. Once they understand those two principles, you have the basis for learning about offensive, defensive and neutral court positioning.

  • Allows them to Practice Playing Front Court at an Early Age – One of the biggest coaching benefits of using the ROGY progression is that kids feel confident playing in the front court from an early age. They know the ball doesn’t hurt them even if it hits them, and it’s much easier to learn the correct footwork and volley form with the appropriate ball and court size. In the first TennisBASH my daughter played in, one of the first winning shots she hit in her doubles match was a volley winner at the net as the server’s partner. She did it with all the confidence in the world and with a split step before hitting the volley.
  • Helps Adults Enjoy Rallying Right Away – One of biggest themes I learned from completing the Adult Development PTR certification was that using orange or red balls are critical for early success of adults who are learning the game. It allows them to play a variety of rally games, learn footwork, contact point, ball recognition and other items through playing the game from the beginning, which they actually enjoy!

If you’re just starting out, ask about learning on red or orange balls. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Allows players to practice hitting shots with a purpose – Whether it be live ball drill, racket fed or hand toss drill, the balls allow kids to hit to a certain part of the court. Since the ball bounces at the appropriate height for their age, the ball can come to their optimal strike zone more easily, and therefore they can practice hitting down the line or crosscourt with correct swing path. This was one of the key principles I learned from being involved in the USTA Player Development National Early Development Camps.
  • Makes it Easier to Develop Proper Service Motion Early – One of the most important fundamentals on serve is swinging the racquet up toward the ball with full extension and rotating, regardless of a flat serve or spin serve.  When juniors use the appropriate color ball for their age, it gives them the confidence to hit through the ball since the balls actually weigh less.  This has made huge difference in my daughter learning the building blocks of the serve that allow her to play in USTA tournaments with confidence on her serve motion.
  • Helps Players Learn Proper Footwork – Studies have shown that players learning with this ball progression develop similar court footwork fundamentals to the pros. The appropriate size court helps build a foundation of footwork movement that they can develop as they grow bigger and taller.  It also helps them enjoy the movement of tennis because they’ll be able to reach more balls during a rally.

You want to get more people in the game of tennis? The answer is start off juniors or adults in the ROGY ball progression. Whether you’re a longtime coach or introducing the game to friends, or even getting yourself or your child in the game, using the proper ball can make a big difference in how much others enjoy playing tennis.

Look for red, orange and green balls in most places that sell tennis equipment. For more information on court sizes and ROGY progression in youth players, click here.


Jeremy Carl is a USPTA Elite Professional, PTR Professional and Safe Play-certified USTA High Performance Coach with Net Generation. He was named the 2016 USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year and is currently coaching at Belle Haven Country Club after coaching at Mount Vernon Athletic Club in recent years.

A Coach’s Perspective on the TennisBASH

By Jeremy Carl

How do you get 7-10 year olds on a Saturday night during the summer playing tennis for two hours straight having the best time?  The answer is USTA TennisBASH, a new tournament format gaining popularity all across the Mid-Atlantic.

A USTA TennisBASH is two-hour timed non-elimination round robin event with food, music and off-court games for the players.  My seven-year-old daughter participated and has loved it ever since. As coach and father it was great to see for several reasons:

  • Fun – Kids get chance to compete in a very fun and friendly atmosphere and get to experience their first tournament in a way that focuses on letting them enjoy playing. I will never forget that after the event was over, my daughter still wanted to hit with me for twenty more minutes.
  • Learn doubles at an early age – While the specific format is up to the Tournament Director kids will play one or two rounds of doubles. Not only will they play doubles but they will play learning the proper positioning of the server, server’s partner, returner and returner’s partner.  The advantage of playing on a correctly-size court is that it allows young players to position themselves just like the pros do.
  • Expands Your Skill Set as a Coach – Most of my coaching career has been coaching players as opposed to running tournaments. However getting started running these TennisBASHes has only expanded my knowledge and skill set in expanding the game of tennis.

    TennisBASH 3

    Jeremy’s daughter and a friend enjoying some of the off-court aspects of the TennisBASH

  • Provides a fun playing opportunity for kids in your program – One of the biggest joys I have had as a tennis coach was seeing that 90% of the players in our first TennisBASG at our club were from our program. It was great to see them have the opportunity to start the tournament playing process in such a fun way.
  • Helps coaches focus on coaching kids to learn how to play tennis and not just drill – Our club has always focused on coaching the game to turn our students into players of the game not just drillers on the court. The fact that we were holding a TennisBASH only helped ensure our coaching was much more efficient and effective to help kids get ready to do the five basic situations in playing the sport which are: Rallying from the baseline, coming to the net, dealing with opponent coming to net, serving, and returning.
  • Provides exposure for your program – One of the most effective ways to get people into the doors of your club is hold events that both parents and kids find fun and productive. The Tennis Bash achieves both. Kids are having nonstop fun on the court and the parents get to see that themselves.

So next time you are looking to provide a fun 10 and under event that allows healthy, safe, and competitive competition try a USTA Tennis Bash. Who is ready to Bash?


Jeremy Carl is a USPTA Elite Professional, PTR Professional and USTA High Performance Coach. He was named the 2016 USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year and is currently coaching at Belle Haven Country Club after coaching at Mount Vernon Athletic Club in recent years.

Nathan Nguyen: Doing Big Things On and Off the Court

Nathan Nguyen is never going to forget his afternoon at the 2017 Arthur Ashe Kids Day. He played tennis on center court at the US Open, won thousands of dollars for his National Junior Tennis and Learning chapter and got to meet his tennis idol – Rafael Nadal!

Nathan is an 8th grader at Michael Lunsford Middle School in Chantilly, Va.  and a member of the DMV/4 Star Excellence Team. The DMV/4 Star Excellence Team is one of 12 teams from across the United States  where youth players learn the importance of hard work, community service, grit and graciousness. Competitive play and education through tennis are especially emphasized by Nathan’s Metropolitan Tennis and Education Group coaches Malcolm Green, Jeri Ingram and Bob Pass. MTEG is the local National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter connected to the DMV/4 Star Excellence Team.

Nathan had two major accomplishments that embodied everything that his coaches stressed to him over the years. On Saturday, Aug. 26, Nathan participated in the Annual Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day target hitting contest in front of tens of thousands of fans.  He competed against other boys and girls representing other Excellence Teams to see who could hit the most targets within 30 second intervals. The competition was played out on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court at the Billie Jean Tennis Center, just days before the pros would be taking center stage there at the US Open. The boy or girl who hit the most targets would advance to the “money” round and compete with top tennis professionals from around the world. Talk about pressure!

Nathan (pictured middle) stayed calm and won the competition among his peers by a narrow margin beating out his Excellence Team teammate Malkia Menguene 17-15. Nathan then advanced to the “money” round where he competed against Angelique Kerber, Rafa Nadal, Venus Williams and Roger Federer. Each target hit won $1,000 for the player’s charity or NJTL. Nathan continued to show off his tennis prowess and won $18,000 for MTEG, which will help many underserved youth to develop their tennis skills and experience cultural enhancing events.  Nathan also got to take a photo with Rafa after the competition!

Nathan Nguyen 2Just as impressive  – Nathan was a Section Champion in the Boy’s 13/14 age group in the USTA Foundation’s 2017 NJTL National Essay Contest. The contest was exclusive to children who participate in NJTL chapters nationwide. This year’s question asked: “In addition to tennis, education and life skills are extremely important to the development of our youth. Which one of the three components above is most important to you, and how will it help you throughout your life?”

In his responses, Nathan showed that his skills extend beyond the tennis court; he’s thoughtful and embodies the values of the NJTL Network.

Nathan is truly an exceptional individual. He regularly participates in community service events and charity work with his Excellence Team members, has a 4.3 GPA and always displays excellent sportsmanship on the court. Other accomplishments include:

  • Top of his math class and received Honor Roll in 5th, 6th and 7th grades.
  • Selected from USTA National coaches in Orlando, FL to represent Team USA and traveled to Canada to compete against the best players in Canada.  Nathan was instrumental in Team USA winning against Team Canada in April 2017. Finished number  1 in 12 and under in Mid-Atlantic for Doubles and number 2 for Singles.  Top 40 in 12 and under in the nation.  Won L2 doubles in Rochester, N.Y. in October 2016 and won another L2 doubles in Virginia Beach, Va. in May 2017. Participated and competed well in Orange Bowl in 2016.
  • Nathan was selected to represent USA Virginia Development Academy to travel to Barcelona, Spain to play in an International Junior tournament called Mundialito in Spring 2017.  This tournament is extremely competitive and players traveled from Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Angola, France and England to participate.
  • Played piano for 2 years, currently taking lessons and playing guitar.  Also enjoy fishing, playing basketball, reading, social media and gaming.

Ronnie Goodall is the Senior Manager of Community Tennis & Diversity at USTA Mid-Atlantic. His photo with Gael Monfils is one of his most prized possessions.

The USTA Junior Player Promise

“Tennis places the responsibility of fair play on me. I promise to abide by the rules, give the benefit of the doubt to my opponent, and compete with the true spirit of sportsmanship. I recognize my behavior on the court is a direct reflection of my character. Win or lose, I promise to conduct myself in a way that honors my opponents, my team, those who support me, and the game of tennis.”