Scholarship Program Helps Brothers Excel in Tennis and Life

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For young Amir C., a love of tennis began by hitting balls against a wall. A scholarship from USTA Mid-Atlantic has helped keep him in the game.

It started by hitting balls against a wall. For then four-year-old Amir C., he had no choice to be at the tennis courts with his grandparents and brother who was training and competing in tennis at a higher level. To pass the time, he would hit balls against a wall, but everything changed when someone saw a talent in him that couldn’t be ignored. Red ball, orange ball, green ball, he improved through the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s youth tennis progression and now at 11 years old, is expertly competing in junior tournaments throughout the Mid-Atlantic and nationally.

But for Amir’s family, he and his brother Mikeal’s competitive tennis mean a lot of sacrifices especially financially. The boys are being raised by their grandparents and since they are retired the family has limited income. But they’ve had support from USTA Mid-Atlantic’s scholarship program for both boys over the years to help cover some costs such as travel to major tournaments. And there are many families just like this one, whose children are dreaming big and performing on the tennis court that need help to keep those dreams going. You can be the one that supports the dream and makes a difference.

“I fully support the Mid-Atlantic scholarship program,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother, a tennis player herself and along with the boys’ grandfather, their primary caregiver. “It is extremely hard financially, and the scholarships that we have been fortunate enough to get have been a life saver. It has assisted us in paying tournament fees and travel costs.” 

As can be the case in competitive junior tennis, costs to train and travel tend to increase as young athletes progress. For highly competitive junior tournament players, their tennis experience and development includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the tennis court training and frequent purchases of new equipment.

These costs can be a significant barrier for many families in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially those of low-income. This can mean some families are faced with really tough financial decisions – pay the bills or play tennis.

At USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, our ultimate vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis. We don’t want any child precluded from playing tennis because of financial challenges. We know how important and powerful it is to provide youth a healthy, empowering and enriching activity that can launch the next generation into a successful future.

That’s why we have a scholarship program that supports high performance junior players in need and you can help more kids grow through tennis when you support our programs too.

When Mikeal and Amir were younger, their grandparents began totting the boys along  to the courts. It was only natural that both boys got into the sport. Older brother Mikeal fell in love with tennis and began competing in tournaments when he was seven. Now, he is 17 and is looking into playing Division I collegiate tennis.

“Whatever the amount of the scholarship, we have put it to great use on the kids. It has allowed them to be able to play the bigger tournaments that we would otherwise not be able to afford to participate in. They both have really improved their tennis by being able to compete at some of these national tournaments,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother.

She also says that tennis has truly shaped the boys lives for the better, giving the boys friends for life and the know-how to treat and respect their friends. She says they have learned good sportsmanship and integrity, and how to be organized thanks to tennis. And that the sport has made them want to have healthier habits and keeps them grounded.

She adds, “We really appreciate the funds we receive for their tennis. The expenses add up really fast, especially if you have more than one player to support. So much is needed and the scholarship program is a great help to families.”

Last year, USTA Mid-Atlantic was able to provide six players scholarships that totaled $2,500.

We want and need to do more for our youth and families in the Mid-Atlantic that may be struggling financially but that are striving for excellence on the tennis court. Are you able to make a gift and support our scholarship and other programs that help keep kids in the sport?

Make a donation today to USTA Mid-Atlantic and support the future of our sport.

USTA Mid-Atlantic is a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service and has the Guide Star Silver Seal of Transparency. 

 

Gearing Up for League Tennis in the Mid-Atlantic

It’s one month in to 2019 and tennis players in the Mid-Atlantic are counting down the days until the spring adult tennis leagues get underway in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Spring is generally when some of the most popular league divisions play with many advancing to Mid-Atlantic Regional and Sectional tennis championships. Thousands of people join league tennis play in the spring. It is an exciting time as the snow melts, flowers bloom and tennis players get back out on the courts.gear-up-for-mid-atlantic-league-tennis

While many of us sit and pine for the days of spring when our calendars are packed with tennis matches, let’s not waste this little bit of downtime to get prepared for the season ahead.

USTA Mid-Atlantic wants to help you “gear up” for the spring tennis season. We’ve put together a series of articles that you’ll find here on the Tennis on Point blog in the Tips and Tricks category that will help get you ready.

The “Gearing Up” series will cover topics such as: 

  • The top questions players have about playing leagues – for both the seasoned player and someone returning after a break from the sport; 
  • Getting in shape physically and mentally so  you are ready for tough athletic matches with the right fitness and mindset;
  • And of course we’ll touch on some gear that you may want to have on the court with you this year.

Look out for links to the latest articles on our Facebook page throughout February or subscribe to our blog to never miss an article.

If you’ve got tips or tricks that you use to get ready for the tennis season, share them with us on social media – tag us and use #ustaspringgearup. We may also have some fun surprises you can snag to help you “gear up,” so watch out for those!

Check out the first article in the series and let’s get ready to “gear up” for USTA Mid-Atlantic League tennis!

Wishing You all the Joy the Holidays Bring (VIDEO)

We hope that this year has brought joyous memories of fun tennis played and friendships made.  Of laughter, and aces and serves for the ages! Of taking your game to the next level, and matches and points with which you can revel. Through tennis we hope that you’ve fueled a passion, and taken your tennis goals and proceeded to smash ’em. We hope you’ve enjoyed staying active and fit, and building new skills that work great on the court and even off of it.

It’s our pleasure serving up the game of tennis for all of you in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Wishing you a Happy Holiday and a joyful New Year –  from your friends at USTA Mid-Atlantic!

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Rebekah Noll

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet Rebekah Noll, a USPTA Tennis Professional, Net Generation verified coach and director of tennis at the Crosswhite Athletic Club in Lynchburg, Va. Rebekah was honored by the USPTA with the U30 Award. Read on and you’ll know why. 

In August, at the 2018 United States Professional Teaching Association’s (USPTA) Annual Awards, local Mid-Atlantic teaching professional Rebekah Noll received the U30 USPTA Award. Noll, Director of Tennis at the Crosswhite Athletic Club in Lynchburg, Va., traveled to New York to be awarded this prestigious honor for her accomplishments as a tennis teaching professional. TTC_2018_Noll_resize

Noll, became a director of tennis at the age of 23, and is part of the USPTA Under 30 Initiative. She has dedicated herself to building and maintaining the tennis community at the Crosswhite Athletic Club.

“I was speechless when Gary Trost, the president of USPTA, called to tell me I won this award,” Noll said. “I could not believe a small town coach in Central Virginia even had a chance up against big time tennis professionals in Texas, Florida and California.”

Noll, in addition to successfully creating a Club League program and the first ever (part-time) tennis academy in Lynchburg, has expanded the youth program to include the USTA youth progression pathway. Youth at Crosswhite can now participate in a USTA entry level tournament each month, run by Noll and her team, to earn youth progression points so that each player is able to “level up.” Noll and her fellow teaching professionals also have the Net Generation app on hand to plan their practices and do progress evaluations on each player to keep them engaged.

“Every coach needs to have a youth progression training funnel. Different sessions for different levels of player, so that they get quality practice, while also encouraging new players to work hard to get to that next level,” she said. Net Generation is a really great way to get your program information out there for potential clients looking for a certified coach.”

Noll grew up in Sarasota, Florida, competing alongside her sister, Jordan Jenkins, as they trained at various tennis academies in Florida and became nationally ranked juniors. Her weekends were filled with traveling to tennis tournaments in the family minivan like many youth participating in USTA tournaments. As a college student and member of the Liberty University women’s tennis team, Noll studied Psychology focusing on Human Development – a major that has proved helpful in her work with youth.

“Tennis is a tool that can help form a child’s perspective on the world – developing mental fortitude in a match or just pushing through hard drills,” Noll shared.

Her background in tennis has led her to an opportunity to help other families navigate the world of tennis, learning and growing along the way. Outside of Crosswhite Athletic Club, she hopes that her outreach program in the community, volunteering at public tennis courts, and giving free clinics will help inspire others to give back to the sport as well.

“I would highly recommend to any collegiate tennis player who is graduating to earn a coaching certification and enter the tennis industry – it’s a great career,” Noll added. The USPTA created the Under 30 initiative to create opportunities through leadership and education for fellow Under 30 teaching professional. Through this initiative, Under 30 teaching professionals can access funding to attend conferences, join USPTA committees and be an active resource for others worldwide.  Fellow USPTA pro and former USPTA Mid-Atlantic President, Patrick Kearns, added “the U30 tennis professionals are the future of the USPTA. Having Rebekah Noll win this National Award is great not only for our [Mid-Atlantic] division but for her personally.  Rebekah is a talented Professional and it’s wonderful to have her as one of our U30 leaders.”


Interview and article by Shell Wood, events manager for USTA Mid-Atlantic.

Unique Partnership Breaks Down Barriers to Tennis

Building confidence. Developing character. Acquiring the skills needed to become productive, responsible adults.

That’s what the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (BGCGW) strives to do for the youth in their clubs.

These aspects are also what USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, delivers to young people through the sport of tennis, while also giving kids a physical outlet and path to friendships and fun that can stay with them for a lifetime. USTA Mid-Atlantic depends on contributions and donations to succeed on the mission to not only grow tennis but to change lives and improve communities through the sport.

With synergies apparent, USTA Mid-Atlantic and BGCGW partnered together during the summer of 2018 to bring tennis to kids age 5 – 18 that did not have access to the sport. Nearly half of the population served by BGCGW lives at or below poverty level, and in populations such as these, most don’t have access to tennis. Thanks to the USTA Mid-Atlantic, more than 400 of these kids got the feel of the racquet, most for the very first time.

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USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis to two BGCGW locations including the Culmore Club and the Martin K. Alloy Club of Manassas. For the Culmore club, participants came from Bailey’s Elementary, Glasgow Middle School and Glen Forest Elementary, in Fairfax County, Va. Counselors-in-training also joined, all of which were from Justice High School in Falls Church, Va. For the Martin K. Alloy Club at least 20 different schools were represented as part of Prince William County Public School District, Manassas City School District, or Manassas Park City School District.

Over the course of 10 weeks, USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis summer camp programming, which introduces tennis through fun and enriching experiences, incorporates STEM concepts and builds life skills such as respect, honesty, decision-making and sportsmanship through the game.20180817_105322-1242007325-1540390083859.jpg

USTA Mid-Atlantic provided verified and trained coaches to run the tennis programming along with the racquets, balls, curriculum and fun. The children didn’t just learn how to hit forehands and backhands. They learned about the benefits that come with playing tennis, such as:

  • Tennis is great exercise. It uses every muscle in the body and is a sport that they can play for their entire life;
  • Anyone can play tennis no matter their ability, and families can play together;
  • Sportsmanship, honesty and friendship are the all at the forefront of playing tennis.

Thanks to grant funding secured by USTA Mid-Atlantic, the tennis program was provided to the participants of the BGCGW at no cost.

“Because of the USTA Mid-Atlantic program over the summer, our kids were able to get exposed to a sport that they would not normally get the opportunity to participate in,” said Yolanda Gales, program director for Culmore Boys & Girls Club. “While it was hot and at times the weather seemed to not be as dry as they would have liked, they all enjoyed going out and being allowed to hit balls with each other while learning different techniques.”20180817_105251-2643274327-1540389946660.jpg

For USTA Mid-Atlantic, it is the highest priority to have all children in the Mid-Atlantic play tennis and experience the life-long benefits that come from the game – no matter their background, zip code, resources or ability.

“Our vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis because we see first-hand how the sport transforms lives and helps kids gain qualities that will serve them on and off the tennis court,” said Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro, chief executive officer of USTA Mid-Atlantic. “We were excited to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington because together we were able to break down barriers and help kids find new qualities in themselves that they may not ever have imagined were there by sampling a new sport.”

Gales said some kids enjoyed learning the ins and outs of a new sport as well as being exposed to something different.

“Getting the kids involved in something out of their norm is what the Boys & Girls Clubs attempts do with partnerships like the one with USTA Mid-Atlantic,” Gales said. “Most of our elementary and middle schoolers are not given the opportunity to play sports after school unless they are playing for the Boys & Girls Club. And because most of our children come from below poverty income households, getting exposed to anything outside of what they are able to play in their front yards seems impossible to obtain.”

Gales is grateful that USTA Mid-Atlantic invested in the future of hundreds of local kids and is hopeful that the partnership will continue.

“We would love to have the opportunity to have USTA Mid-Atlantic come again during the school year,” she said.

This school year, USTA Mid-Atlantic is delivering their tennis programming after school in both Prince William and Fairfax counties, with hopes of expanding into many of the schools that serve the BGCGW participants. With tennis programming being provided immediately following the school day within school buildings, the organization aims to create a safe environment that gives kids a positive outlet and shows them the way to healthy habits for life and continues the lessons learned during the summer.

But support is needed to make programs like the one delivered this summer with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington available for low to no-cost to the students in these under-resourced communities.

With your help, USTA Mid-Atlantic can bring more tennis programs to these kids and meet the goal of reaching 4,256 youth with after school tennis programming and enrichment. You can show your support by making a donation today.  


 

Harry Holtzclaw is an intern with USTA Mid-Atlantic. Harry is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreation Management from James Madison University.