Legendary coach Dick Gould instructs a youngster during Stanford University's Tennis Festival at the Taube Tennis Center.
© University of Stanford
By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
Dick Gould knows a thing or two about coaching young players. In 38 years as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, he won 17 NCAA team national championships, developed 50 All-Americans and coached such all-time greats as John McEnroe and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike.
On March 2, he was at it again – though this time the young players were just a little bit younger. In fact, all 300-plus kids who attended Gould’s Tennis Festival at Stanford’s Taube Center last month were 13 and under, covering Stanford’s courts with smiles and laughter as they were exposed to tennis as part of a month-long series of Tennis Festivals kicked off by the annual Tennis Night in America celebration.
"I’ve always really enjoyed working with kids of all ability levels and ages, including beginners," said Gould, who credited USTA NorCal for all its work with outreach and in helping to run the event. He also enlisted about 20 members of the Stanford club team to serve as the "teaching staff" for the event.
Stanford’s was just one of hundreds of organized Tennis Festivals hosted by tennis facilities – schools, parks, clubs, youth centers and colleges all got in on the fun – in March as an introduction of tennis to young players. A variety of tennis games, contests and exhibitions keep new players engaged in free-flowing, constant movement as they get acquainted with the playing space and equipment used in the youth game. If children do not own racquets or balls, the event provides them to anyone who wants to participate.
One benefit of hosting a Tennis Festivals, which Gould proved true, is that by welcoming kids of all ages and skill levels, there is a tremendous opportunity to attract a new audience to the sport. The widespread youth initiative is getting both kids and parents engaged so there is sure to be more tennis in everyone’s future.
"With parents, they were thankful for the opportunity for their kids to get out and play, very appreciative," said Gould.
In all, Gould and company led an hour-long session, followed by an award ceremony for kids based on their play and sportsmanship. The families were then treated to pizza and prime seats for an NCAA match between the women’s varsity team versus rival UC Berkeley, won by the Cardinal, 6-1.
"What amazed me is that this year, everybody stayed for the match," said Gould, who instructs a similar age group each summer during Stanford’s Nike Tennis camp with wife, Anne. "I’m thinking that we must have done something right with this event to have that sort of enthusiasm."