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Play events support growing tennis community

October 11, 2013 11:27 AM
There were more than 1,400 tennis events held in September to grow the game with tennis sized right for age and ability.
The September tennis events supported Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

September was a month for tennis, and not just because of the 2013 US Open. In conjunction with Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and in support of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, more than 1,400 tennis clubs, facilities and programs throughout the country held free events to get more kids playing – and loving – tennis.

The events ranged in size, scope and location, but they all served a common goal: to get kids active, healthy and having fun through the sport for a lifetime.

For instance, in Concord, N.C., Chad Oxedine had more than 50 kids ages 4 to 18 attend his Play Day, promoted as “bring a friend to court” and featuring both the green and yellow ball (depending on the age and ability of the player). Even better, he paired the event with a Special Olympics Tennis qualifier for the state tournament, which gave the kids a chance to support the Special Olympians and serve the local community.

“Over 20 of our older players, our middle school and high school athletes, and their parents volunteered for this event,” said Oxedine, the tennis director at Amp Tennis in Concord.  “So we had ages from 4 to 50-plus playing tennis at our eight-court public facility on a gorgeous Saturday, from 9 o’clock in the morning to 5 o’clock at night. It was a pretty great tennis day!”

In Appleton, Wis., Jill Rushkofske, a physical education (PE) teacher at nearby Huntley Elementary who said she doesn’t have much experience with tennis, utilized tennis skill cards  to design an event that brought in 25 kids ages 3 to 11, plus six parent volunteers. And to make sure that those who loved the experience had a chance to stick with it, she used the event to launch a kids’ tennis camp that ran every Tuesday for the four weeks that followed.

“It allowed me to build off the Play Day and add more advanced skills in each week,” Rushkofske said of pairing the event with the tennis camp. “I feel that starting kids at a younger age with basic tennis skills leads them to be more successful as they get older. It also exposes them to a sport they may not get a chance to try.”

Kathryn Lewis’ event in Stone County, Miss., a rural community with only 17,000 residents, drew 20 children for a two-hour clinic. One of the volunteers, Michelle Rogers, was the new PE teacher at the local Perkinston Elementary School, and she now plans to work with Lewis to incorporate more tennis programming into her classes.

“Our USTA play event yesterday was a huge success, with 20 new tennis citizens, six volunteers, one volunteer pro and lots of enthusiastic parents staying the entire two hours” Lewis said. “We have an amazing opportunity in this community for tennis. One of our incredible community members, who has played tennis for almost 50 years, built six beautiful courts and gave them to the county and its citizens. So Stone County is ready to rock and roll. It takes a village to build a healthy community for our children, and we’ll start by offering them a lifetime sport!”

It’s a great place to start – and the free tennis events in September offered the perfect platform to make it happen.


For more on how to get your child started in tennis, and to find the right equipment and a program and facility near you, visit YouthTennis.com.



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