Scholarship Program Helps Brothers Excel in Tennis and Life

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.tennis-hitting-wall-tennis-ball-hoffmann

“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.” 

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.

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.

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, especially when every dollar counts.

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.

“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?

Make a donation today to USTA Mid-Atlantic and support the future of our 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. 

 

Q&A with Coach Enoch Thompson

Enoch Thompson has been a pillar in the DC tennis community for decades. Last year, he was named a USTA Local Hero for his work on the court and acting as a positive role model for youth. We caught up with Enoch to ask about his tennis journey and tennis in Washington over the years.

What brought you to DC?

I came to DC in 1970 to study architecture at Howard University from the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas.

How long have you been playing tennis? How did you get started ?

I was gifted a set of racquets my junior year at Howard University. I was no longer playing baseball and needed something to do. I have never taken a  tennis lesson. I taught myself to play by watching others and reading.

What or who inspired you to learn and continue to play tennis? What inspired you to teach?

Growing up in the Bahamas, tennis was looked at as a “girl” sports, and I admired Arthur [Ashe] and Pancho Gonzales. My entire family plays tennis; that includes my wife and four children. When my children began to take on tennis competitively, I caught the coaching bug.

How did baseball play a role in the development of your tennis career as professional tennis instructor?

In baseball you can foul off a million balls and still have the chance to hit a home run, unlike tennis where the ball is either in or out. Baseball taught me to focus and life lessons from being on a team

How has tennis changed since you started teaching  and playing? What is the most profound change you have seen?

Just with technology tennis has changed so much. There is no way you could play with a wooden racquet now. You would  have all kinds of tennis elbow. The biggest change I’ve seen is the 10U format. 10U tennis has made for an early start into to tennis for kids, just like other sports have. With the modify equipment we [tennis instructors] are able to make more with less and be creative when it comes to teaching. Tennis can be played outside of a regular court and even without a net. That was the real game changer when it comes to accessibility.

Being in the nation’s capital where the most political decisions are made, do you think politics has played a role in how tennis has changed here ? How so or why not?

In some ways politics has changed tennis here in DC. Tennis has always been powered by the people. With the different pockets of tennis all over the city the community isn’t really cohesive .

What would you consider to be the turning point in tennis for players of color?

After the age of Arthur, Althea and Poncho, came a lot of great players of color. People of color had a face in the tennis. Serena and Venus have been just great. Things really began to change for players when people like you [USTA MAS staff member Ebonye Jones] began to take on roles with the USTA. Information and resources like trainings became easier to access to be in the community.

What do you love the most about tennis?

The love that comes with the game . Friends become family with tennis . My entire family plays tennis and the game has been the consent activity that brings us together. A family that plays together stays together.

If you had one advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be flexible when people offer criticism.

League Captain of the Year

Meet Amy O’Brien from Leesburg, Virginia. She captained 13 teams in 2016 and has already signed on for more this year, in addition to her commitment to growing tennis throughout her community.  She has won 2 tickets to the 217 US. Open along with $500 for travel spending for this honor! This is what others had to say about Amy:

“She is tireless and a great captain helping both rookies and advanced players.  She sacrifices so much of herself to the sport of tennis…it is the fabric of her soul and she truly is deserving.”

“She manages so many teams from doubles, mixed, singles to juniors. She is on the tennis board for our neighborhood, coordinates classes and schedules for contract time–the list just goes on and on!”

Here’s a deeper look at our Captain of the Year!

When did you first pick up a racquet? I decided to take lessons five years ago when our new pro arrived at River Creek Tennis Club. I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise but not realizing that I would really enjoy the game.

How long have you been captaining USTA League teams? I’ve captained teams for about 4 years.

What do you enjoy about captaining a USTA League team? Meeting players and making new friends not only from our club but other clubs as well.

What’s been your favorite or most unique “captain” moment so far? I have several favorite moments. One of favorite moment ( or a sense of accomplishment) of being a captain is seeing the growth in our membership and teams. In the past everyone in our community played for other clubs. We didn’t have a men’s, junior or mixed doubles team. But now we have over 16 teams for all  ages and level of players. It is nice to see our tennis community and membership grow at River Creek Club.

What do you think your players or other players should know about what it’s like to captain? I welcome feedback and being a captain is easy when you have a great network of support system from not only your teammates but parents as well.

What is your strategy on recruiting new players? How do you find and fill your team with new players each year? We recruit by a lot of networking. Sometimes, I see people playing that I don’t know at our club, I will ask them for their names and phone numbers and invite them to play in our round robin or  at our social events. We try to be very inclusive. Other times we discovered that new players are nervous to play with others and we tell them all levels are welcomed as we all started from somewhere. We want to make sure everyone feels welcome.

Why do you like to give back to the sport of tennis so much? Because  I made some true and long lasting friendship due to tennis.  Also,regardless of your age tennis is a sport that everyone can enjoy . It is a sport that my kids really enjoy and I want to support them as much as possible.

If you could have any professional player (current or retired) on your league team, who would it be? Why? Federer because of his mental toughness and how he always stay calm.

Congratulations, Amy! USTA Mid-Atlantic would like to thank all of our outstanding USTA League captains for their service to the program.  From scheduling lineups to making calls to players at the eleventh hour, we know and definitely appreciate all they do to keep the USTA League program fun for everyone!

To learn more and get involved in USTA League tennis, click here.

 

2016 Mid-Atlantic Award Winners

Gain Inspiration from These Six Award Winners

USTA Mid-Atlantic (USTA MAS) was pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Impact, Inclusion and Innovation awards for the Section at this year’s Conference and Awards ceremony on November 12, 2016. This is the second year USTA MAS has awarded trophies to deserving individuals and organizations who are working hard to promote and develop the growth of tennis in the community.

This year’s award winners are a diverse group that has a commonality – a passion for getting more people of all ages playing tennis. From an organization that has gone above and beyond to encourage diverse populations to play tennis to an individual using the latest social media technology to get more people out on the courts, these six winners are ones to watch in the Section. They are also great role models for others who also want to make a difference in the tennis community.

 Instead of just telling you about them, take a look at the following videos to learn about each award winner and what makes their work so special.

2016 Inclusion Award (individual), Ann Tierney of Chesterfield, VA.

2016 Inclusion Award (organization), The Multicultural Children’s Tennis Association of Columbia, MD.

 2016 Innovation Award (individual), Pedro Graber of Arlington, VA.

 2016 Innovation Award (organization), the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association of Washington, DC.

 2016 Impact Award (individual), Jennifer Toomy of Norfolk, VA.

2016 Impact Award (organization), Montgomery TennisPlex, Boyds, MD.

Please join us in congratulating these award winners on their tremendous accomplishments in 2016.

We hope these stories are an inspiration to do more in your community to grow tennis, embrace inclusion and try new things to spark interest in the sport. You can also get involved by supporting USTA Mid-Atlantic in our efforts to reach underserved populations and enable more people – especially children – to play tennis and learn the sport of lifetime. You can simply text ACE to 80077 to make a $10 donation to USTA Mid-Atlantic to help our tennis enrichment scholarship fund.*

What do you find inspirational about the 2016 USTA MAS award winners? In what ways can you do more to promote and develop the growth of tennis in your community? Share your thoughts with us on social media and join the conversation.

Editor’s note: All award winner videos were produced in partnership with G-Fitz Productions.

*$10 donation to USTA Mid-Atlantic. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to 80077 to STOP. Text HELP to 80077 for HELP. Full Terms: mGive.org/T Privacy Policy: mGive.org/P


Lauren Hoffmann, is the director of marketing, communications and membership for USTA Mid-Atlantic.

USTA Mid Atlantic Award Crystal

The Three “I”s in Tennis

How do you spell tennis?

T-E-N-N-I-S. Absolutely correct!

How many of you might say there are three “i”s in tennis? Probably not many, but I am here to tell you there are.

As the Executive Director for USTA Mid-Atlantic I am moved by the passion people find in tennis. I visit the tennis courts in our Section and attend events, and as I look around I see people of every age, size, color and type playing their hearts out and having fun. Tennis truly embodies what it means to be life-long – something you can play as a child, teen, young adult and into your golden years. And oh by the way, you can get started at any age too!

Our goal, our mission is to get more people to experience what tennis is all about; play, have fun and feel the passion and benefits that result. Specifically it is to promote and develop the growth of tennis and we couldn’t be more proud to do that. In my role, I am always looking for ways we can get more people to find themselves in the game. I look strategically at what we are doing as a Section to achieve this and to keep us focused, we created a three-year plan that is aimed at serving the mission and actively tracking our goals.

Interestingly, as a result of creating the strategic plan, we saw the three “i”s: inclusion, innovation, and impact bubble up to the surface.

Inclusion – tennis is a game for any and every one. And our work strives to embrace that across all program areas of focus. We are working to create an inclusive and diverse tennis community through programs and services that attract all people to the game. Not only that, we hope to inspire the entire Mid-Atlantic tennis community to embrace and support an environment of inclusion.

Innovation – no longer can you just keep doing the same things and expect the same results. Innovation and disruption to the norms are essential for keeping tennis viable. Every day we push ourselves to try new things and get creative to reach our goals. This mentality has brought forth some of our most interesting (and fun) opportunities and programs to attract more people to tennis. Check out our Yo Pro program and youth progression for starters. We are striving for innovation when it comes to growing tennis and in how we provide the game itself.

Impact – above all we want to make a difference in a measurable way. We want to have positive outcomes on individuals, young and old, on communities and on tennis in the Mid-Atlantic. We are all about hard-hitting measurable results that show improved quality and increase in participation.

These three words are referenced and inferred throughout the strategic plan and when we took a step back, they stood out prominently.

While the three “i”s make a lot of sense to us here at the Section office, we know we aren’t alone embracing these principles.  We know that so many of you in our tennis community are living the three “i”s every day. In fact, in 2015 we wanted to honor the work of individuals and organizations going above and beyond to grow tennis and modeled our 2015 Section Awards in three new categories.

The Inclusion Award for advancing the commitment to tennis in every community recognizes those that went above and beyond to make our sport welcoming. The Innovation Award for embracing change as a strategy to grow tennis recognizes those that are proactive in trying new and different ideas and who attracted or retained players by introducing unique offerings. And the Impact Award for hard-hitting influence on the growth of tennis to those that grew tennis across the board and used tennis to make a positive difference in the community.

We had an impressive inaugural class of award winners – you can check out these videos to hear their inspiring stories.

In 2016, we continued with the three “i”s for the 2016 Section Awards. We received strong nominations and are excited to announce this year’s winners and tell their stories during the 2016 Conference & Awards on Saturday, November 12 at the Bethesda Marriott. I hope you can join us to learn about the 2016 award winners and get a sense of the three “i”s for yourself.

Tennis is the greatest sport around and when we put the three “i”s in tennis we’ll be well on our way to reaching our goals and having more and more people benefit from our great game.

Now that you know about the three “i”s, in what ways can you embrace them both on and off the court? I challenge you to think about that and share your stories with us through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (ustamas).  Or contact us through the blog and let us know what you think.


Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro, is the executive director for USTA Mid-Atlantic.