Top Things we are Thankful For About Tennis

At  USTA Mid-Atlantic we often say tennis is so much more than a game played with a racquet and ball. We believe tennis is a culture, a community and a passion that builds character, enhances your life and makes you who you are.

With the Thanksgiving season here, we started thinking and talking about the sport we love and why we are so thankful to not only be working to grow the game and get more we-love-mid-atlantic-tennispeople playing but also simply why we. LOVE. Tennis. So. Much!

So we started a list of things about tennis we are so thankful for and appreciate. By reflecting on this appreciation we hope more people can understand why tennis is special and feel motivated to show their support during the charitable giving season to ensure all people in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially children, get to experience the benefits of a game that gives back in so many ways. Our list is by no means complete so we definitely want to hear from you on what you would add too. Here goes:

Tennis makes us thankful for…. 

What would you add to the list that we have not included? Leave a comment or tweet us (@USTAMidAtlantic) with your comment using #ThankfulforTennis.

 

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.

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.