By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
Spirits were high in South Beach on Tuesday as the USTA celebrated the refurbishment and creation of 10,000 youth-sized tennis courts in the United States.
The special event, Court 10K, took place at the Tamiami Tennis Center in Miami. On hand to commemorate the milestone moment was a number of special guests, including U.S. Fed Cup captain, Olympic gold medalist and Miami native, Mary Joe Fernandez, and First Lady Michelle Obama also sent a note of congratulations.
Installing suitable courts all over the country for children to play was part of the USTA’s commitment to encourage young people across the country to get active, play tennis and lead healthier lifestyles, in partnership with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.
"We know that kids need 60 minutes of exercise a day to stay healthy and reach their full potential, so having access to fun opportunities to get moving could not be more important," said the First Lady. "The USTA has provided thousands of kids the chance to run and play, to learn a new game and perfect their skills, and to make new friends in a safe environment.
"I am incredibly proud of the USTA’s commitment to encouraging kids to lead healthy lifestyles and to opening new doors to explore a wonderful sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives."
The USTA teamed up with Obama and Let’s Move! in 2011. A component of the collaboration was the commitment to encourage children to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), in which more than 226,000 kids participated and completed the challenge through the USTA.
To date, the USTA has had more kids complete the challenge than any other youth sports organization in the United States.
"Tennis is the perfect sport to get kids active and keep them healthy," said Dave Haggerty, USTA Chairman, CEO and President. "The USTA’s Youth Tennis initiative was designed to make it easier and more fun to get involved in the game, and our commitment to creating and refurbishing youth-sized tennis courts across the country has been another step toward making the sport more accessible to more kids."
The celebration on Tuesday featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication, and afterward Fernandez played on the ceremonial courts with 25 youth tennis plays from the Miami area.
"By providing infrastructure, the USTA’s efforts will help foster the game at the grass-roots level and get more kids active," Fernandez said. "In addition, these efforts will help improve communities across the country. I am thrilled to be part of this momentous occasion."
The USTA began its effort to build and renovate courts for youth tennis in 2005, with nearly 7,000 kid-sized courts being built or renovated since the beginning of 2012 alone. The courts have been built in public parks, schoolyards, tennis facilities and at local community-based youth organizations like the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs.
As part of this initiative, all courts that were built or renovated were specially lined to enable participation in the USTA’s youth participation initiative, 10 and Under Tennis. Youth tennis is geared toward getting more kids to participate in tennis using modified equipment and courts tailored to a child’s age and ability. By featuring shorter and lighter racquets, slower-bouncing balls, smaller courts and simplified scoring, children learn to play more quickly and easily while having more fun in the process.
In total, the USTA, through its facilities assistance program, has built more than 35,000 tennis courts across the country in the past six years for all ages and abilities to enjoy the sport for a lifetime.