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

Make an Impact Beyond the Net

Create happier, healthier, and more active communities through tennis.

Tennis has the power to transform lives. Tennis gets you physically active and helps you stay mentally sharp. It gives you new challenges to face and a lesson learned every time you play. New friends are made and you connect with people from your community. Above all, tennis is a sport you can play your entire life.

We believe every person in the Mid-Atlantic region deserves access to the transformative power of tennis, especially children. You can help increase access to tennis and grow the sport so that more people, no matter background, location, resources, ability, can learn and play for life.

See how your support will directly influence the Mid-Atlantic tennis community.

Today, you can make an impact beyond the net! By making a tax-deductible donation you will directly impact the access to tennis in the Mid-Atlantic. And now is a better time than ever to make a tax-deductible donation because an anonymous donor will double all donations up to $10,000 for 2019!

After School Tennis Programs Reach Milestones

Since 2016, USTA Mid-Atlantic’s TGA Premier Youth Tennis after school and summer camp enrichment programs have been introducing children to the lifelong sport of tennis. The program has had more than 10,000 in participation and is delivering on the promise USTA Mid-Atlantic envisioned at the onset – every child in the region learning, and loving, tennis.

As the spring sessions come to close and the school year ends, our impact through the programs has never been more apparent. Record numbers of children are participating and interest is growing among school communities to offer tennis to students. In just the winter and spring sessions alone there have been more than 2,400 in participation – this is an increase of 38% compared to this time last year.

This is incredible growth, but what you may not realize is that we depend on generous donations to help us reach children with the benefits of tennis.

A number of our USTA Mid-Atlantic TGA Premier Youth Tennis programs had significant milestones so far this year (winter and spring sessions) and we’ve got the incredible highlights below:

  • In Howard County, Md., programs had more than 600 registrations combined which is the highest for any of our locations, ever!
  • A new program was started to serve home schooled children in Loudoun County, Va., to provide a healthy enrichment activity.
  • In Richmond, Va., 91 students – a record number – participated in tennis after school at Woodbridge Elementary.
  • Richmond also saw a record number of participants in the spring with 193 registrations.
  • A new program was started in Prince William County, Va., at Springwoods Elementary with 26 students in the first season, this is almost triple the students than usual for a new program.
  • At Barrett Elementary in Fairfax County, Va., student interest in tennis was so strong that we held three sessions during one season to serve 41 students.
  • In West Virginia, we started a new after school program at North Elementary. More than 123 participants went through at least one season which is the most from any one school!
  • Also in West Virginia, a record number of participation happened in one season across all schools served in the area with more than 350 children participating!
  • And in the Glen Oben community in Anne Arundel, Md., they’ve highlighted tennis as their “community sport” to help neighbors get more activity. The Homeowners Association has partnered with us to deliver tennis enrichment programs for their community.

With our mission in mind to promote and develop the growth of tennis and our vision to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region, we are passionate about our after school and summer camp tennis programs; through these programs, more children are introduced to the game and gain vital skills from playing the sport.

We are so committed to introducing ALL youth in the Mid-Atlantic to tennis that we offer our programs at significant discounts; provide scholarships; and deliver incentives for school communities that help remove barriers to play.  With your support, we can continue accomplishments and milestones like these every season. We can continue to put racquets in hands and change lives. We can show children how healthy, active lifestyles can be fun and we can give them gifts of life skills that will benefit them for years to come.

It is through the love of tennis we can change lives together. You can be part of this great change and help us deliver more after school and summer camp tennis programs to ALL children in the Mid-Atlantic. Make a tax-deductible donation today.

Building Relationships through Tennis

“I always tell the kids, find the joy in tennis and have fun. More fun means more tennis!”

My name is Max, and I am a coach in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section’s after school tennis program. As a high school tennis player and certified tennis coach, I’ve always found tennis to be a special sport because it brings all types of people together. I see this happening in the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program too – children of all backgrounds and experience levels coming together and having fun with one another, all thanks to tennis. Let me share an example.

Recently, I was working with a larger group of children of all different ages during an after school tennis session. I observed a first grade student playing tennis with a third grade student. This was quite an accomplishment because the younger student was very shy, and had a harder time getting involved in the games. With the help of the older teammates, over the weeks of the after school tennis program, the child really opened up and became comfortable playing tennis with all the students. This was special to see because it showcased the transformative power of tennis. It took teamwork and friendship to allow this student to be encouraged to play the game.

The USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program helps kids connect with one another, and make breakthroughs both with their tennis skills and social skills to open up in new ways than before. This is a positive experience that lasts a lifetime.

This is why it is so critical to support this program. The way it is structured helps bring children together that are all different levels and helps them all succeed and grow in the sport together.

Ensuring that USTA Mid-Atlantic can continue to make the tennis after school program affordable and accessible to all while delivering high-quality experiences is critical. It is truly a  special program and I encourage individuals to make a tax deductible donation today to help the program grow.

As the after school session is coming to an end for the spring, I feel I have had a positive impact working with the kids in the tennis program. Through this program, I make a difference in their day and I see their excitement to play tennis.

When you make a tax deductible gift of $100.74, it not only covers the cost of equipment, high-quality curriculum, and instruction for one child in the program, you are supporting a program that is rewarding for children and one that allows them to focus on enjoying the fun of the sport while learning so much about themselves and others who may not be like them.

And USTA Mid-Atlantic has an anonymous donor that will match all donations made up to $10,000 for 2019.

Thank you for reading my coaching story. I invite you to read perspectives from two other coaches, Noe and Raith, and learn more about USTA Mid-Atlantic’s tennis after school program and the impact being made.

Sincerely,

Max

Proud Coach, USTA Mid-Atlantic After School Youth Tennis Program

P.S. USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached more than 1,300 kids so far in 2019 and more than 10,000 overall since the program’s inception in 2016. Your tax deductible gift of $100.74 will help another child experience the love of tennis.

Tennis Today, Endless Possibilities Tomorrow

I am a coach because I want to be a positive influence on youth and their perspective on tennis; I want to foster a love for the sport that will benefit them for a lifetime.

My name is Raith and I am a coach in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section after school tennis program. I’ve been a tennis coach for a few years and I enjoy coaching in this program because you can see your students getting better and having fun! In this tennis program, children learn how to be successful, in sports and in life, and to me, that speaks volumes for their future.

I started playing tennis when I was very young, around five or six years old. I loved sports growing up, but what I loved most about tennis was that I could really focus on my game and improve. Tennis helped me be a better athlete overall, developing my hand, eye and foot coordination. Now as a coach, I get to see this type of growth from the children I teach in the after school tennis program.

USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program is structured in a unique way that I haven’t seen from other tennis programs. I love how we focus on ensuring kids have fun, while actually playing tennis so they can successfully build skills. The use of lower bouncing balls and equipment sized right, meets children where they are so they have success, have fun and want to keep coming back to learn more. There is a real emphasis on the overall development of the child as a whole person and whole athlete, which is a real differentiator.  

I saw this, first-hand, in one of my students that had a little bit extra energy and a hard time being patient during our sessions. I was able to have that child channel the energy into a fun game that works on hand-eye coordination to bump the ball on the racquet while waiting for a turn in the larger group activity. The student did this while waiting and quickly got into focus. Very soon, the student got really good at the activity so we stepped it up to hitting a ball against the wall. The student’s focus and control improved and it was a great lesson that the child can take into the classroom and in life – when you put your mind to it and focus, you can do great things.  

Tennis is a lifetime sport and through the USTA Mid-Atlantic after school tennis program, children are developing skills for a healthy, active life that will benefit them for years to come. This is why it is so important to support the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program. More children need to be exposed to tennis through this program and USTA Mid-Atlantic is on a mission to introduce tennis to many more kids.

You can help by making a tax deductible donation.

When you make a tax deductible gift of $100.74, that donation will cover the cost of equipment, high-quality curriculum, and instruction for one child in the program. And USTA Mid-Atlantic has an anonymous donor that will match all donations made up to $10,000 for 2019, which is a great chance you don’t want to miss to double your impact when you give now.

I hope you will join me in supporting USTA Mid-Atlantic as they bring tennis to more children throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Tennis is a great opportunity for children to be successful in building skills that will serve them their entire lives.

Thank you for reading my coaching story and why I support USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program. You can also read other stories from coaches like me to continue to learn about the impact of this program.

I hope to see you and more children on the courts soon!

Sincerely,

Raith

Proud Coach, USTA Mid-Atlantic After School Youth Tennis Program

P.S. USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached more than 1,300 kids so far in 2019 and more than 10,000 overall since the program’s inception in 2016. Your tax deductible gift of $100.74 will help another child experience the love of tennis.