“Fun, friendly, cool.” These are the three words 11-year-old Deoz uses to describe tennis – a sport he recently came to fall in love with. After playing lots of other sports, Deoz discovered tennis on his own. He decided to try tennis after school because – in his words – it was just fun.
“When I first started [tennis], I liked it right away,” said Deoz. “I had to run a lot and that was fun. And the drills and exercises came quickly to me.”
When his mom noticed how much Deoz was interested in the sport she decided to get more information about it so that she could help him keep pursuing his interest. It was a fateful conversation at the hair salon that gave her all the information she needed. Another patron told her about the different opportunities available for youth tennis and about local tennis programs offered by the Park and Recreation Department near where they lived in Prince George’s County, Md. She and Deoz decided to check the programs out.
“I was just wowed by the programs,” said Deoz’s mom. “I had never seen tennis programs to the level they were being offered – camps, individual coaching, team tennis. It was overwhelming at first but then the coach really helped to make it easy to get Deoz going.”
Soon after a few introductory lessons, Deoz’s tennis skills were progressing and he was able to start playing with other kids, getting more competitive and comfortable. Not only that, Deoz and his mom were impressed by the community surrounding tennis, noticeable by the variety of ages and people that play, courts always in use, and caring people and coaches that paid as much attention to what was happening off the court in Deoz’s life as what was happening on the court.
They also started to notice the many character-building skills and benefits developing within.
“I had to do a lot of running drills and that was fun because it got my speed up to race with my friends,” Deoz shared. “Tennis also helped with my focus – you have to focus and know what you are doing in the game. It helped with school and other activities.”
But the most important lessons he was learning on the court were life-lessons he fully embraced off the court.
“The biggest lesson I am learning from tennis is to always be fair. You learn to call the ball in or out and that being fair is most important, even in close matches,” he shared.
As the character-building benefits from tennis just started to shine for Deoz, the unimaginable happened. A pandemic and job loss for Deoz’s mom. She didn’t want this temporary situation to be a concern and impact his ability to continue to play tennis. Deoz’s tennis coach offered a suggestion – apply for a USTA Mid-Atlantic Junior Player Scholarship.
“It was easy to apply for the scholarship and it was so helpful,” she commented. “I wanted to make sure that I could keep Deoz in tennis and that he had something to do.”
Thanks to generous gifts from the USTA Mid-Atlantic community, scholarships for youth players at any level of the game – even those new to the sport like Deoz – are available. Scholarships help with the cost to take lessons and help nurture the benefits the sport provides. Deoz used the scholarship to keep up with tennis and continue in the classes he was taking and now is shaping his character and future in the sport as well.
When asked what he would say to those that donate to USTA Mid-Atlantic and support programs such as the Junior Player Scholarship he said:
“THANK YOU for giving to kids in need. There are a lot of kids in need of scholarships, just like me, that your donations help. Donating helps kids learn tennis, and also learn leadership skills, strategies in thinking, building confidence, and overall development.”
And when asked what he would tell other kids like him about tennis and trying the sport:
“Definitely try it out! If you are interested, tell someone that tennis is something you want to do – you never know where it will take you until you try it!”
Can you give a gift to support young players and those children interested in tennis, just like Deoz? Your gift can help children discover something new and gain the character-building benefits only tennis can provide.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Learn more about our impact in the Section and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.
USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, Inc. is an exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; EIN 54-1472806. All donations made to USTA Mid-Atlantic Section Inc. are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.