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.
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.
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.”
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.
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