In 2017, the Aspen Institute selected Baltimore as the first city to implement a model initiative to identify and facilitate opportunities for a variety of leaders and stakeholders to come together and grow the quality and quantity of youth sport opportunities. Project Play Baltimore was a three-year collective impact initiative, and at the onset a draft report was published indicating the lack in activities and activity level for youth in the city. Only 26% of males and 16% of females met the CDC’s recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
In the years following the initiative, significant progress has been made. Earlier this year, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced a $120 million vision for the city’s recreation and parks acknowledging the critical and vital role recreation plays in the well-being of residents, especially youth.
Likewise, USTA Mid-Atlantic – a nonprofit organization – recognizes the significance and importance of ensuring access to tennis and the life-long benefits the sport provides. We envision a community where tennis is accessible and available for all people to play, especially youth who can benefit exponentially from the sport. We rely on the generosity and support of our community that helps us take on and tackle challenges – from increasing physical activity to addressing equity and access to tennis and more.
Seeing the opportunity to make a significant impact and acknowledging Baltimore’s rich and deeply rooted tennis history, USTA Mid-Atlantic is taking a leadership role to bring tennis to more youth in the city of Baltimore (and in the County) and support the overarching vision for a healthier community and equity for recreation and youth sports.
Thanks to support from the Ravens Foundation, Inc., through a Ravens PLAY 60 Grant, USTA Mid-Atlantic began implementing free and low-cost introductory tennis programs using the USTA Team Challenge format in Baltimore, primarily in Druid Hill Park and Patterson Park this spring, along with sessions not too far outside the city in Baltimore County. Additional funding from the Kahlert Foundation to the Section supported USTA Mid-Atlantic’s implementation of a new pilot tennis program called Girls Rule the Court™ offered in the city of Baltimore.
Both tennis programs in Baltimore that USTA Mid-Atlantic offers are introductory, giving youth the chance to learn the fundamentals of tennis in a fun, low-pressure environment. All equipment is provided and use of public park tennis courts help make it easy and convenient to participate.
Not only that, Baltimore youth gain increased physical activity levels and both programs are rooted in a positive youth development experience that facilitates social emotional learning (SEL) and supports an overall healthy well-being for young people.
Developing SEL skills such as building confidence, character development, and creating meaningful peer connections is a key component in both programs. USTA Mid-Atlantic partnered with Hello Insight to measure SEL among participants of the programs. On average, participants reported a 84% satisfaction rate through the Hello Insight participation surveys. In addition through post surveys, “87% of participants also reported that they were able to positively share and listen to each other during the program, positively impacting their interpersonal relationships and communication skills.” Catie Dugan Vargas, associate director of development for USTA Mid-Atlantic reflected on the feedback received thus far from program participants, “This information enables us to grow the program in impactful ways and improve the overall experience for all participants in real time, thereby ensuring each young person is finding their unique path to thrive,” she said.
The spring sessions concluded with 37 participants among both tennis program offerings in Baltimore, and summer programs are starting now. If you would like your child or someone else you know to participate in these rewarding tennis programs for youth check here for location, dates and details for the programs. Registration is open and all are encouraged to sign up.
USTA Mid-Atlantic aims to continue to grow these programs and tennis offerings in Baltimore to increase access to tennis and support the vision that all children have access to sports.
One way you can get involved and show support is by volunteering with us to help with both of these programs. Volunteers are the heart of USTA Mid-Atlantic and there are plenty of opportunities beyond these as well, such as volunteering at local tennis events, community events, joining committees, and other USTA Mid-Atlantic projects. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities, check out our volunteer page, and visit our volunteer hub to learn more about how you can get started and sign up to volunteer.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Learn about our impact in the Section and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.