Serving Off the Court: A Perspective on Healing Through Tennis

By, Deirdre Hughes

As a black woman living in a diverse metropolitan community, I don’t face a daily barrage of overt racism. Instead, I encounter the slow, steady drip of microaggressions and bias that wear on my mind and soul. Regular occurrences like the glares of disdain from my neighbors as I walk in my own neighborhood; Starbucks Barista moving the tip jar when I step up to the counter or the co-worker telling me that racism “isn’t a thing.” My experience, it’s like death by a thousand pin-pricks. 

Our current times have generated high stress and anxiety across the nation, in the local Mid-Atlantic region and around the globe. In the African American community, high blood pressure and diabetes are prevalent; African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, according to the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Studies suggest that these chronic diseases are also linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. Further, research that links experiences of racism with poor mental health is emerging. 

Fortunately, one of my best strategies for combating stressful experiences is tennis.

My tennis story begins on the public tennis courts in Buffalo, N.Y.  My uncle, who is also a tennis player, gave me my first racquet as a Christmas gift when I was in middle school. That following summer, I started learning tennis in a free tennis summer camp sponsored by the Buffalo Department of Parks and Recreation.

My passion for the sport started during those summers. Over the years I played tennis every once in a while. Then in 2011, I started taking lessons again when my job’s wellness benefit covered tennis lessons. Over time, as I saw improvement in my play, I began playing more and more. 

Currently, I am a 3.0 player but I prefer to play at 3.5. I am a singles player but I will play doubles from time to time. I have played on various teams around the Washington, D.C. metro region in addition to playing in USTA Sanctioned tournaments. My biggest tennis accomplishments to date include an undefeated season in 6.0 Mixed Doubles and winning the January 2019 Ladies 3.0 Singles Simkins Indoor NTRP tournament in Greensboro, N.C.  

For me, tennis is an escape and outlet from the daily stresses of my life. Nothing else matters when I step onto a tennis court. From my first strike of the ball, I can feel all my anxiety melt away and my problems temporarily disappear. After I finish playing, I am relaxed and positive, and ready to once again tackle my everyday life.

Tennis also helps my mental acuity. I love the challenge of thinking through a match, problem-solving, self-evaluating, and correcting mistakes. These skills don’t just reside on the tennis court but are skills that I use in my professional life as a marketing manager at USTA Mid-Atlantic. Further, tennis aids in developing mental toughness and resilience. Two very important traits needed to navigate our world.

It’s important not to underestimate the power of tennis. Tennis is unlike any other sport;  a lifelong sport that offers physical and mental benefits. Just read Dr. Jack Groppel’s 34 Reasons to Play Tennis and listen to the webinars he held with us at USTA Mid-Atlantic recently and you’ll gain an understanding of the physical and psychological reasons to play the sport.

While playing tennis cannot solve systemic issues such as racism, it can, however, aid in relieving stress and improving overall health. Tennis can foster connections, communication, and community. Healthy minds and bodies create healthy communities. 

Tennis can help all people  – socially, emotionally, and physically. 

And it is with this very belief USTA Mid-Atlantic works hard to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region for ALL people and communities. Tennis can help as part of a recovery process and the #ServeItForward campaign is in progress to support this effort.

USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section as part of the recovery process we’ll all need.  Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community. 

Resources:

https://www.anxiety.org/black-americans-how-to-cope-with-anxiety-and-racism

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20191204/african-americans-face-unique-mental-health-risks

https://www.humana.com/learning-center/health-and-wellbeing/fitness-and-exercise/tennis#:~:text=Joan%20Finn%20did%20a%20study,other%20athletes%20or%20non%2Dathletes.

https://www.active.com/tennis/articles/five-benefits-of-tennis

https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=18

Serving Off the Court: Kendall McCaughey

Serving Off the Court: Kendall McCaughey

As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times, our focus is often on meeting the needs of our family members, friends, and neighbors. However, animals living in shelters need love and attention as well during this pandemic. And while news reports suggest a surge in pet adoptions and fostering of animals, experts are quick to note that shelters still have and always will have animals in need.  USTA Mid-Atlantic member Kendall McCaughey decided that she could step in and provide that TLC to our non-human friends.  

We caught up with Kendall to find out more about how she is serving off the court in this unique way

USTA Mid-Atlantic: Where do you live? 

Leesburg, Va.

Tell me about your family.

I am married with two kids. Bryn is 17 and is committed to playing lacrosse at the University of Denver in the Fall. Michael is 20 and a sophomore at the University of South Carolina.

How did you get started playing tennis

I played tennis as a youth and played competitively in high school.

I got back into tennis as an adult 13 years ago and I’ve played quite a bit on lots of teams.

Do you play on any tennis teams or in tournaments?

I did play on lots of teams. The biggest highlight was placing 3rd at the USTA National Tournament for 8.0 mixed doubles.

Where do you play tennis? 

I play mostly in my neighborhood.

Tell me about how you are serving off the court.

 I walk dogs about once a week at Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) in Aldie, Va.

How did you get started? 

I went online and signed up at FOHA.org. Then I went through training which takes about an hour to an hour and a half.

Why did you decide to volunteer

These animals are confined to small shelter spaces. FOHA needs volunteers to give them the opportunity to improve their quality of life through exercise and positive human interactions like snuggling!

What’s your favorite part of helping? 

I feel fortunate to provide time to these animals who desperately need love and attention.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get involved with helping during this time? 

This is a great time to get involved! There is a need for people to help walk and interact with animals in the shelter. It is a positive, socially distanced activity that gives tremendously needed attention to these sweet animals who are surrendered or abused through no fault of their own!

As the recovery process begins, tennis has the power to rebuild the community and we continue to be inspired by so many of you – the tennis players, parents, and fans out there, giving back and helping out during the pandemic in many different ways. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section as part of the recovery process we’ll all need.  Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community.  

Let us know how you or your tennis friends #ServeItForward by emailing hughes@mas.usta.com

Diego Tran Rosado_1

Serving off the Court: Diego Tran Rosado

As social distancing continues, teenagers find themselves dealing with issues such as completing school online, lack of extracurricular activities, and of course missing spending time with their friends. Additionally, with the suspension of activities such as tennis, many find that they may have extra time on their hands. One USTA Mid-Atlantic member and junior tennis player decided to put his spare time to good use. Deigo Tran Rosado and his dad, USTA member Dao Tran regularly volunteer their time delivering meals and groceries for Corona Aid 757, and Southeastern Food Bank.

We caught up with Diego to find out more about him and how he and his dad are serving off the court. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic: Where do you live now?

Diego: We currently live in Virginia Beach, VA

Tell me about your family?

My dad is American and my mom is Spanish. My sister and I were both born in Spain. 

I grew up in Malaga, Spain. I have Spanish and US citizenship.

We moved to the United States because my sister wanted to finish high school here and then head to college. We moved here last July 2019 and we attend Princess Anne High School.

Diego Rosado

How did you get your start in tennis?

After I quit soccer and didn’t want to do a summer camp, my dad told me I had to find another sport. So he took me out to the tennis court since he loves tennis. I was 7 years old that summer. I’ve stayed with it since. 

Currently, I train at a club and with a private coach and with my dad. I started playing tournaments on weekends when I was 9 years old.

How long have you been playing?

9 years

Where do you usually play?

Cape Henry Racquet Club

Diego Tran Rosado

Do you play on teams or in tournaments?

Yes, JTT at Old Dominion University with Jennifer Toomey’s team. I play individually at different USTA tournaments in Virginia and North Carolina.

Tell me about how you are serving off court?

My dad and I are helping CoronaAid757 and Southeastern Food Bank by making deliveries to seniors, those in financial need and in quarantine.

We deliver meals 2-3 times a week depending on days we are not busy with school work and have been delivering since mid-March.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time?

My dad has volunteered before and told me how rewarding it was many times. He did it when he was at the university with Rotaract and other local organizations back in Los Angeles. So whenever he has time he would look to volunteer. 

Then when we started seeing people (and cars in long lines) on TV standing in line for food kitchens we wondered what about people who cannot leave their homes like seniors and those who are in quarantine or those who didn’t even have a car and take buses that may need food or help. We wanted to help these people who are isolated and cannot even go out.

How did you get started?

We wanted to help in some way locally but weren’t sure what we could do. So we did research and found CoronaAid757 on Facebook and later found the Southeastern Food Bank on Google. Both needed drivers to make deliveries. Since we can volunteer the days and hours we are free, we decided to sign up and help.

What’s your favorite part of making deliveries?

It’s rewarding to see the look on the recipient’s faces when they receive their packages and meals, knowing that we’re helping in some way. We’re all in this together and no one should be forgotten. It helps you stay grounded and humble and grateful.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to volunteer during this time?

Organizations always need volunteers. It doesn’t take much but it means a lot for those in need. If you have time and transportation, just reach out and ask how you can help, no matter your experience, skills or background, it’s easy as that. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic is proud of all of our members who are serving the community during this time of crisis. Let us know how you or your tennis friends are going above and beyond for others and making a difference during the coronavirus pandemic by emailing hughes@mas.usta.com

Click here to find out how you can support USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization to make an impact on our region through the power of tennis.

Serving Off The Court: Teams Sponsor Meals for Health Care Providers

For USTA Mid-Atlantic players, an adult leagues team means competition, friendship, camaraderie, and fun. But more than that, team members support each other off the court as much as they do on it – especially during a time of crisis like we are in now. For the Northern Virginia adult league team “Smack that Ace,” pulling together as a team to help others not only benefited local health care providers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic but a small business owner as well. What’s more, it inspired an abundance of generosity from other tennis league teams to contribute and help too. 

“Smack that Ace” is a 20-person strong, ladies 4.0 team with players hailing from all over the D.C.-metro area. Led by captain Ami Chastain, the team boasts many accomplishments, including placing 2nd at the USTA League Nationals in 2016.

League Outreach during COVID-19

Accomplished at leading her team on the court, Ami is also leading her team off the court by keeping players connected and in touch during this time of suspended play. During one such outreach, the team realized they had two members in incredibly critical roles that could use some help. The team devised a way to support fellow team member and ICU nurse, Brita Johnson, and her George Washington University Hospital colleagues as well as team member Angela Goodman, owner of Famous Toastery in Ashburn, Va. The plan was for the team to raise $320 to purchase meals from Famous Toastery and Famous Toastery would supply meals to the ICU Nurses at GW Hospital. A gesture to show appreciation to the hard-working nurses on the front lines and a way to support a local business. 

The response was so overwhelming that the team met their goal in just one hour. 

And then the generosity spread. 

As can be the case in metro areas, Brita Johnson also plays tennis on a Washington, D.C. league team with captain Yvonne Mayo-Anderson. Mayo-Anderson heard of the effort and went into action reaching out to her Anderson & Anderson team and they contributed as well. Within roughly 24-hours, the two teams raised more than $2,000 – enough to purchase two nights worth of meals from Famous Toastery for the ICU nurses.

Says “Smack that Ace” team member Rachel Fritz, “given the current social environment, health care providers, first responders, grocery workers, etc are the heroes in our country. We have to thank them and support them in every way we can.”

League Players Serving off court

The generosity did not stop there. Enough money was raised that the teams could afford to reach out and help more people. 

“Three of us are also on a team in Montgomery County, Md., with another nurse and an ER doctor. So we decided to contact that captain and share the wealth,” said Fritz.

And that’s when Rachel contacted team captain Laura Sommers. Sommers and fellow teammate Dawn Johnson are health care providers in  Montgomery County. They were able to arrange for Famous Toastery meal deliveries to Laura and Dawn’s respective health care teams and bring them meals to show their support. 

It is incredible to see how generosity can blossom and spread all throughout our communities. Even the smallest gift can go far beyond what we can imagine and be inspiring.

“This was just a really small way for us to contribute. Tennis friends are amazing and very generous,” Rachel concludes. 

Healthcare workers receiving food donations

USTA Mid-Atlantic is proud of our members who are serving the community during this time of crisis. Let us know how you or your tennis friends are going above and beyond for others and making a difference during the coronavirus pandemic by emailing hughes@mas.usta.com

Click here to find out how you can support USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization to make an impact on our region through the power of tennis.