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 Court: Taste of the Mid-Atlantic with Doukenie Winery

In the Mid-Atlantic, communities are beginning to cautiously reopen and with that comes the hopes for recovery, rebuilding, and a “new normal.” USTA Mid-Atlantic, a 501 (c)3 non-profit, believes tennis will be crucial  to this process and to reconnect communities and people even while social distancing.  In that spirit, we’ve recently launched the #ServeItForward campaign to generate support for tennis in the Mid-Atlantic as part of the recovery process and support our mission and vision for tennis in every community.  

There are many ways to #ServeItForward with USTA Mid-Atlantic Section. One exciting opportunity is virtual wine tasting events we are calling “Taste of the Mid-Atlantic.” 

Taste of the Mid-Atlantic
Taste of the Mid-Atlantic

During these events, you get exclusive access to learn about and taste wines as if you were a special guest at the winery, but you get to do it from home. AND you are helping to #ServeItForward because a portion of the proceeds will be donated to USTA Mid-Atlantic to support our charitable tennis programs.

We’ve partnered with Doukenie Winery in Loudoun County, Va., for the first tasting event.  

General Manager of Doukenie Winery, Sally Travis, is a member of the USTA Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors and a USTA League player. We caught up with her to talk about the upcoming wine tasting event, tennis, and being involved with USTA Mid-Atlantic.

What drew you to tennis?

I dabbled a bit in High School and returned to tennis eight years ago when my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. I needed a recreational outlet as a distraction from what was happening in our lives. 

I joined Ida Lee tennis center and took lessons. Then I started playing competitively and was recruited to play on a mixed doubles team in Montgomery County, Md. We went to the USTA League Nationals in Arizona! 

Tennis was a lifesaver for me. Tennis creates lasting friendships and a sense of community. 

How did you get involved with the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section?

A few years ago, Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro (Chief Executive Officer at USTA Mid-Atlantic) reached out to me to get involved and serve on the Nominating Committee for the Board of Directors. I served on that committee and then became the Chair. 

Later, I inquired about getting even more involved and serving on the board. 

I enjoy being on the board. I believe in the mission and getting more youth and families involved in the sport. The promotion of children and after school tennis programs are so important.

What do you admire about the work we do at the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section? 

I admire the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section’s after school and youth tennis programs. They are such a great benefit to the community. I also admire the USTA League tennis program in the Section because it is a great way for adults to get involved, find exercise, and establish a community. It is a great outlet for anyone at any level. 

What are your thoughts on how the community can move forward from the pandemic?

It’s a difficult time for everyone. Anything we can do together and collaborate to support both business and USTA Mid-Atlantic is great. 

Let’s switch gears and talk about the Taste of the Mid-Atlantic event. What do you think people should know about Doukenie Winery? What makes it special?

Doukenie is a family-owned farm winery that welcomes families to enjoy our grounds while drinking our wine and we opened in 1995 by George and Nicki Bazaco.

George’s grandmother was named Doukenie and she told him to grow grapes, so that’s what he did! Doukenie Winery has 360 acres and 30 acres under vine.  There are 16 wines on the menu and they are always releasing something different and trying new things. 

If someone is new to wine, what would you tell them when trying wine?

I highly recommend that you try a full tasting at a winery, whenever given the opportunity. 

Here at Doukenie we have seven wines on the tasting menu. Virginia has so many different varietals (wines made from a single grape variety) and there are so many different things wineries are able to do now with wines. Whether it is keeping reds in barrels longer or aging different whites that are in either stainless steel or oak barrels, there are so many ways to make the wine unique.

Top tips for a good tasting experience?

Everything is worth trying once.  It’s all about what you feel about the wine, rather than what someone tells you. Ask questions to your wine tasting educator. Take a sip and see if you like it. When at a tasting, feel free to tell a wine educator what you like and don’t like, and they are sure to help you find something you will enjoy. 

There is no right or wrong; it’s all about what you like and if you enjoy it. Wine is an experience and meant to be enjoyed.  

What is your favorite part about Virginia wine?     

In Virginia, we can grow so many varietals, and so we can make hybrids and many different blends. Because of where we are located, we are able to have a long growing season, and we have such an opportunity to grow so many types of grapes. 

Doukenie Winery has 14 varietals on the property. Despite some of the frost this spring, 2020 looks to be another great year for Virginia wine!

What is the biggest myth you would like to debunk about Virginia wine?

If you haven’t tried it lately, try it because it is better than you remember! 

What are the details about the upcoming event?

Join us Saturday, May 30th! If you haven’t RSVP’ed for the event, do so here! Curbside pickup is available for the wines featured in the event. 

Taste of Doukenie Winery Virtual Tasting Event, Saturday, May 30th, 2020 at 5PM

Bill Travis, Doukenie Tasting Room Manager, will host the event. 

$127 for a 3 bottle package that includes:

2019 Rose

2015 Doukénie Dionysus

2017 Doukénie Chardonnay

To purchase your package and arrange for curbside pickup, please  call 540-668-6464 ext 201 or email orders@doukeniewinery.com

15% of sales will be donated to the USTA Mid-Atlantic to support our charitable community.

After completion of the purchase, virtual meeting event details and tasting tips will be sent via email to all event participants. 

To learn more about Doukenie Winery, please visit: https://www.doukeniewinery.com/

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. 

Evelyn Header_1170x585

Serving Off the Court: Evelyn Schroedl

At 102 years old, USTA Mid-Atlantic donor Evelyn Schroedl proves that not only is tennis a lifelong sport that can be played at nearly every age, but how supporting tennis can have a lifelong positive impact that can live on for all generations. 

A Baltimore, Md., native, Evelyn was introduced to tennis when her brother-in-law gave her a tennis racquet. Hitting the ball back and forth across the street with him sparked an interest in the sport. It wasn’t until 1997, when she retired from the workforce, that she started taking tennis lessons. Evelyn says “I always wished I started much earlier.”

Over the years Evelyn would go on to play on several teams including a successful mixed doubles team. Currently, Evelyn plays doubles at the Northeast Regional Recreation Center (NRRC) near her home in Parkville, Md. 

What Evelyn loves most about tennis is the social aspect and meeting so many different people. For example, once, while at a museum food court in Washington, D.C., she sat at a table with two ladies who excitedly exclaimed, “We know who you are, we play tennis with you!” While Evelyn didn’t immediately recognize them, she reflects on how tennis connects you with so many people that you often find you know someone everywhere you go, even in large metropolitan areas like Baltimore and D.C. Tennis creates a more connected community.

Knowing first hand the positive benefits of tennis and the vital community the sport provides for players of every age, Evelyn is a champion for increasing access to the sport. However, over the years Baltimore lost many of its beloved tennis courts – the very places where people can learn the sport and connect with one another. Now, there are only a handful of places left to play. The impact of the loss of courts is felt the most in underserved communities across the city because it is one less opportunity for adults and youth to have a safe place to play, de-stress and come together. 

Upset by the dwindling amount of courts in the Baltimore area Evelyn went into action. 

First, she donated a new tennis facility to her alma mater and former employer, Goucher College. In 2019, Goucher broke ground on The Evelyn Dyke Schroedl ’62 Tennis Center. Twelve new, outdoor tennis courts will replace the eight that had been there and the courts will be the home to the Goucher College Men’s and Women’s Tennis Teams and will be open to the surrounding community for public use.

Second, Evelyn donated to the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section. She knew that by giving to the USTA Mid-Atlantic, she was helping communities in the region like Baltimore, enhance lives through tennis, and that her donation supports increased access to the sport for all. 

When asked why she donated, Evelyn simply replies “because I could.”

While the COVID- 19 Pandemic has us sidelined, Evelyn is no stranger to situations like these. She survived the Spanish Flu in 1918 and looks at the current COVID pandemic as a nice break from everyday life. 

“I am not unhappy about the quarantine; I am very happy because I am doing things I have not done in a long time!” Evelyn spends her time reading, sewing, and watching many old movies. However, Evelyn, like the rest of us in the USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis community, is eagerly awaiting getting back on the courts.

Evelyn is the essence of “serving off the court,” selfless acts that will impact a community and sport that she adores.

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

How Your Donation Supports Tennis

As a non-profit charitable organization, USTA Mid-Atlantic helps people and communities grow stronger, healthier, and more connected through tennis. We aim to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region and want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the lifelong benefits of tennis.

One of the ways we do this is by introducing youth to tennis through after school and summer camp programs.

When you make a tax-deductible donation, you help with program expenses such as these:

Donate today, and make an impact beyond the net.

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.

Tennis Obsession in Middle Schools in the Mid-Atlantic

When you are a middle-schooler there are lots of different things to be obsessed with: the latest fashion trend, that post on social media, the hottest music, hilarious memes and so much more that dominate the world of tweens and teens of today. For some middle-schoolers in the Mid-Atlantic region, they are adding a different obsession to their list – tennis. 

As thousands of children participate in USTA Mid-Atlantic youth after school tennis in elementary schools and progress through the program, many are taking their tennis skills with them into middle school.  And many middle-schoolers are finding their love for tennis for the first time too. That’s why USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, began after school tennis in area middle schools to introduce the sport to more kids, and give those that have been playing an outlet to continue to pursue their game. It is fundamental to the mission of USTA Mid-Atlantic to offer programs such as these and, thanks to the support of donations, it enables us to offer them in a way that reduces barriers and makes tennis more accessible to all kids. 

middle-school-club-320x195In one local middle school in Loudoun County, Va., participants in the after school tennis program saw a new potential in themselves they never knew existed. Week after week, their tennis skills improved and they were becoming more confident in their game, so much so they set a goal to get to the next level – the high school tennis team. 

But to do that, they knew they would need to work hard and take their practice further. 

With the encouragement of their after school tennis coaches and USTA Mid-Atlantic, they created their own tennis club team. So far, more than 65 middle school youth have participated in the middle school tennis club

The club meets on Sundays for two hours and the focus is advancing the kids’ fundamentals of tennis strokes followed by team activities and matches. This allows the participants to bridge the gap between their learn-to-play experience and competition in a fun, low-pressure setting. 

And the work is paying off. 

Some of the middle school club members had the confidence to enter their first entry level USTA Junior Tournament this past spring, several practiced throughout the summer on a weekly basis, and some have continued to hone their skills with additional lessons.

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New shirts for the USTA Mid-Atlantic middle school club team

And now with school back in session, the club is practicing regularly. Recently this fall, 18 tennis club players from two different middle schools played each other in a friendly round robin competition in both singles and doubles matches. Using their improved skills from all the practice sessions, they were able to complete matches and see all their hard work come together in real match play experiences. At the end of the day, the players and coaches talked about the highs and lows of match play and shared best practices with their biggest takeaway – you must get your serve in! They celebrated their success with new team t-shirts and popsicles; a perfect ending to a good day on the tennis court.  

For all of the middle school tennis club participants, learning the sport and playing in a team setting is proving to be a powerful experience that is inspiring them to do more and to discover a new talent, maybe even an obsession, with tennis. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic wants to bring the power of tennis to more middle school students and children all across our region this school year through after school programs, but we need help to make this happen.

As the school year is just getting underway, your gift can make an immediate difference. Importantly, you can double your gift when you give thanks to an anonymous donor matching all donations up to $10,000 in 2019.

You can help change lives through the power of the USTA Mid-Atlantic after school tennis program. Give today.


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.