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Youth Tennis

Youth Tennis Demo Sets Up Tennis Night, March Tennis Festivals

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Some talented New York-area kids took center court at Madison Square Garden for Tennis Night in America on Monday, highlighting the recent growth of young players in the U.S. and a month-long promotion of Tennis Festivals to expand the youth game.

By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com

Before the game’s biggest names take to the court at Madison Square Garden Monday for the BNP Paribas Showdown, six of tennis’ smallest stars showcased their talents, continuing Tennis Night in America’s tradition of spotlighting the future of the sport. Indeed, Monday’s night’s fun launched a month-long celebration of the sport, as the USTA will be promoting Tennis Festivals throughout March, designed to introduce kids and their families to the fun and excitement of tennis.
 
Six New York-area kids took to the Garden stage for a live on-court demonstration of 10 and Under Tennis, before the double-bill main event of 2012 US Open champion Serena Williams versus Victoria Azarenka and 11-time Grand Slam singles titlist Rafael Nadal taking on 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro live on ESPN2. The half-hour youth tennis exhibition was hosted by Bob Harper, fitness expert and star of "The Biggest Loser," and Jeff Sutphen, host of Nickelodeon’s, "Figure it Out," with highlights of the demo airing during the national broadcast.
 
Tennis, and taking on the epidemic of childhood obesity, are both at the forefront of Harper's mind these days. Last week, Harper, along with Williams, attended First Lady Michelle Obama's third anniversary celebration of the "Let's Move!" campaign in Chicago to encourage schools to provide children opportunities for 60 minutes of physical activity per day before, during and after school.
 
Traveling east to New York for Monday’s event, the television personality and best-selling author was excited to spread a message of movement and play with the sport he loves to watch most.
 
"My whole message is about getting kids to be more active," said Harper. "Kids are spending up to seven hours a day in front of the television or the computer screen, completely leading sedentary lifestyles. For me, tennis is a great sport because all you need to do is get a racquet and a ball and get moving. Many times when I was a kid, I used the side of my house as a partner until the sun went down. It’s a sport that has so many advantages."
 
"I'm beyond honored that the USTA asked me to be involved with their youth tennis efforts," added Sutphen. "Tennis is one of those rare sports that you can play your entire life. The earlier you start, the longer you will get to play."
 
And now, more kids are playing than ever before. In fact, the annual participation survey conducted for the USTA and the Tennis Industry Association by Taylor Research and Consulting cited a 13 percent increase in the number of players between the ages of 6 and 11, the largest increase of any age group.
 
"For these kids and our whole team, it’s a thrill," said Anne Davis, USTA National Manager, Youth Play and Competition. "The impact that our organization has made in bringing even younger children into tennis, with events like Tennis Festivals across the country, is evident in how the game is growing nationwide. There are now 28 million active tennis players in the country, and the greatest growth was participation among our youngest players."
 
10 and Under Tennis follows the same logic as other youth sports like baseball or soccer, which use equipment sized right for kids. With smaller courts and racquets, lower-bouncing balls and simplified scoring, gone are the days of the boring drills and chasing balls all over regulation-sized playing surfaces. From the first day, kids are playing and learning the rules through competitive experience.
 
"If we can continue to be a part of Tennis Night each year, we’ll be ready for the call," added Davis. "The stats back it up. We’re always talking about a better path for youth players – but being able to show off the fun these kids are having every time they hit the court is the most effective proof for families interested in tennis."
 
Meet the roster of rising stars who debuted on Tennis Night:
Rachel_TNIA_100
 Rachel A.
 "I love playing tennis because it's just a game and I love playing games. And if you are good at it, you get to travel to different places. That’s amazing!"
  • 10 years old (4th grade)
  • Tennis Experience: 6 years
  • Favorite Player: Victoria Azarenka
  • Best Stroke: Forehand
  • Off-Court Talent: "I can play the saxophone really well, and I also love to swim."
IMG-20121214-00026_Tauheed_100
 Tauheed B.
 "I like to compete and come back if I'm down. I love tennis!"
  • 10 years old (4th grade)
  • Tennis Experience: 4 years
  • Favorite Player: Novak Djokovic
  • Best Stroke: Forehand
  • Off-Court Talent: "I enjoy auto racing and have even tried some NASCAR training."
Shakima_100
 Shakima H.
 "The thing I love about tennis is the competitiveness – and I love going to different places, meeting new people and making lots of friends."
  • 9 years old (4th grade)
  • Tennis Experience: 4 years
  • Favorite Player: Serena Williams
  • Best Stroke: Forehand
  • Off-Court Talent: "I really like to sing, usually with my sister. We have beautiful voices!"
Evan_100
 Evan L.
 "It feels good when I hit an amazing shot and win the point in front of a crowd."
  •  9 years old (4th Grade)
  •  Tennis Experience: 3 years 
  •  Favorite Player: Gael Monfils
  •  Best Stroke: Inside-in Forehand
  •  Off-Court Talent: "Basketball is my other favorite sport – I have extensive knowledge of NBA players current and past."
Rebecca_Photo_TNIA_100
 Rebecca S.
 "In tennis, I love to compete. It’s really fun to play tennis with my mom, my brother, Billy, and my friends!"
  •  9 years old (3rd Grade)
  •  Tennis Experience: 8 years 
  •  Favorite Player: Victoria Azarenka
  •  Best Stroke: Forehand
  •  Off-Court Talent: "I’m creative and I like art. When I’m not playing tennis, I enjoy painting, sketching and I even like to sew."
SOHROB_100
 Sohrob Y.
 "What I enjoy most about tennis is the competitive spirit good tennis players have. Tennis is fun to me if I win or even if I play really hard and lose. I still have that fighting spirit no matter what."
  • 9 years old (4th grade)
  • Tennis Experience: 5 years
  • Favorite Player: Roger Federer
  • Best Stroke: Backhand
  • Off-Court Talent: "I love to play the guitar and create music."

Since 2009, the USTA has utilized Tennis Night in America to launch more than 5,000 youth tennis events nationwide, as well as to provide a platform for facilities to register children for spring and summer tennis programs. These events have contributed to the overall growth in youth participation in the sport.

This year’s Tennis Festivals from March 1 to March 31 are designed to welcome youth of all ages and skill levels. Parents also are encouraged to participate and learn how tennis is now sized right for their child’s age and ability.

To find events in your area, check out YouthTennis.com.
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