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USTA family, friends stumping in Washington D.C. for first-ever Advocacy Days

May 7, 2012 10:57 AM
Billie Jean King (far right) and over 100 members of the USTA family lead the charge into Washington D.C. to establish a tennis caucus to bring positive health and educational changes to Americans.
USTA Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy Barry Ford (center) champions the development of after-school and public parks tennis programming for youths as a way to increase their physical and mental well-being.
USTA Military Outreach has served over 100,000 active U.S. military personnel, veterans and their families - and looks to continually grow.
By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
The sport of tennis is about to make its way to the steps of Capitol Hill.
For the first time ever, approximately 100 members of the USTA Family, including members of the USTA and USTA Serves Board, the Advocacy and Public Affairs Committee, the Tennis and Higher Education Task Force and the NJTL network will visit Washington, D.C. later this week to highlight the work of the USTA in communities throughout the country.
"The USTA is proud to arrive in full force in Washington, D.C. and share our sport with the federal decision makers of this country," said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen.  "Thanks to the work of our Boards of Directors, both the USTA Board and the USTA Serves Board, our national charitable foundation and the tireless efforts of our Advocacy and Public Affairs Committee, our Tennis & Higher Education Task Force and our National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, we are in a great place to showcase the type of engagement we have in communities across the country through the game of tennis."
The inaugural "Advocacy Days" are scheduled to begin Wednesday at noon ET with an address by International Tennis Hall-of-Famer Billie Jean King, winner of a career 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, with a third of them – 13 in all – won at the US Open. The legendary King will champion the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis initiative and the learning of the game in public parks across the country at the National Press Club Speakers Luncheon before taking to meetings with lawmakers to try to create the first "tennis caucus" on Capitol Hill to support the growth of educational and youth development activities through tennis.
"Part of the message that (King) and our whole organization are trying to get across is that we are, uniquely, a sport that can be played for the entirety of a lifetime," said Barry Ford, USTA Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy. "For far too long, the youth players have been underserved in America, which is why we’re bringing tennis to after-school programs and public parks. Billie Jean herself learned the game in the parks as a young girl and went on to have one of the greatest careers our sport has ever seen."
Since the 1960s, King has served as an advocate for athletes of all backgrounds – gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic and, recently, individuals suffering with arthritis – to participate in sports. As one of America’s highest-profile female sports figures, King served as a key figure in the formation of World TeamTennis, and the USTA’s National Tennis Center was renamed in her honor back in 2006.  
"To all of America, Billie Jean King is an icon – an incredibly important cultural figure in the struggle for equity and human rights," said Ford. "I couldn’t think of a better way, nor a better spokesperson, to kick off our time here in Washington."
Notable attendees for King’s address include USTA Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer Gordon Smith, fellow ITF Hall-of-Famers Stan Smith and Pam Shriver, USTA Vice President Katrina Adams, USTA Director at Large Patrick J. Galbraith, Sen. John Breaux (D - Louisiana), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D - New York) and Rep. Norm Dicks (D - Washington).
Tennis supporters of all ages can view King’s address live as it happens through the NPC’s website, press.org. You can additionally follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NPCLunch, or on Facebook at (facebook.com/PressClubDC) and Twitter (@PressClubDC), and you can also submit questions for King to answer in advance and during the live event by sending them to @QNPCLunch on Twitter.
The majority of stumping begins Thursday, as the second day begins with morning orientation for all volunteers in preparation of visiting over 100 offices during the day. A congressional briefing at midday will formally announce the formation of the tennis caucus, the vehicle in which congress and the USTA can work together to make an impact at the national and local levels through the support of various programs. Included in that plan and yet to be mentioned is the USTA Military Outreach program, whose efforts have supported more than 100,000 U.S. Armed Forces service members and their loved ones in its first year in 2011.
"To develop American champions, it is essential to invest in American communities," said Vegosen. "Education isn’t limited to what takes place on the court. Our association is striving to improve performance in the classroom for our young people through both in-school and after-school programming.  We want all children to attend college.  We are fighting obesity through active lifestyles by making tennis a part of the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge and the First Lady’s Let’s Move Campaign. Through our new USTA Military Outreach program, we are maintaining close contact with, and supporting, our active-duty military, veterans, wounded warriors and their families."
On Friday morning the USTA and "Joining Forces," an initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to give military service members, veterans and their families the appreciation and recognition they have earned, will meet at the Pentagon to provide a close to Advocacy Days. Through an exchange of gifts, the two sides plan to highlight the strides made in establishing a homeland support system for U.S. troops.
"Engaging with our military is core if we are to change public policy," said Ford. "It's one of the ways in which our organization can distinguish itself and our commitment to addressing a very relevant social issue, caring for those and providing resources for those who have given us so much with their service."
For Vegosen, who will take part in Friday’s ceremony, it is all part of a grander plan to promote and develop the sport.
"We are doing a great deal, and we want to do so much more," said Vegosen. "With the help of our legislators, we can change more lives for the better than ever before, regardless of one’s background or socio-economic status. By continuing to promote and develop the growth of people through tennis, we can ensure that tennis is the sport of opportunity for all."


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