By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
USTA Jr. Team Tennis celebrated its 13th National Championship season with the 2013 Nationals in Cayce, S.C.
, as nearly 100,000 American kids 18 and under vied for a chance to win the year’s highest honors in the Palmetto State. The tournaments, which were held at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center (CTFC), featured the top 64 teams from the USTA’s 17 sections competing in four events – 14 and Under Intermediate and Advanced, and 18 and Under Intermediate and Advanced.
In its first trip ever to Nationals, “Team Top Gun” from San Diego, representing the USTA Southern California section, earned the 14U Advanced division title, beating USTA New England, 50-37, in the final. USTA Southern claimed the 14U Intermediate title, the Wilmington, N.C. squad denying a Southern California sweep with a 56-44 win.
The following weekend featured a tremendously entertaining finals face-off in the 18U Advanced event. Onlookers huddled around the CTFC’s Court 16 as USTA New England’s team from Stamford, Conn., needed both a set and a final tiebreak victory to hold off Southern, 42-41. Elsewhere, USTA Missouri Valley won the 18U Intermediate title, taking trophies back to Oklahoma City by beating Southern by a 55-36 margin.
“The biggest win was seeing how the teams interacted with one another and established friendships,” said Adrienne Di Menna, USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Manager. “With technology and social media being what it is today, we think it’s awesome that we have players from different sections staying in touch long after they’ve left South Carolina. I think they all realize that we’re part of one big national team, trying to grow this sport.”
Stryker started Jr. Team Tennis programs in the Irvine, Calif., area 13 years ago with 66 teams per season. She currently has 191 and 175 teams participating in the spring and fall leagues, respectively, and her program has experienced an increase in participation of 370 players from 2011 to 2012.
In all, Stryker oversaw the coordination of 380 Jr. Team Tennis teams in the Irvine area since the start of 2012, all while organizing additional Youth Tennis events including Play Days.
“Heidi was the first to offer 10 and Under [Tennis] Play Days in Irvine to get novice kids involved in tennis,” said Ken Grassel, USTA Southern California Jr. Team Tennis Program Coordinator. “She works with local parks and recreation departments to increase the number of court time and space needed for the programs in Orange County. Heidi is basically a CTA all on her own with all that she coordinates in her area for juniors, adults and seniors.”
USTA Jr. Team Tennis brings kids together in teams to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles against other teams. It promotes social skills and important values by fostering a spirit of cooperation and unity, as well as individual self-growth. Also, it’s a fun environment for kids in which they learn that succeeding is really more about how they play the game – win or lose.