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Northern California

Mike Skinner: Giving Back Through Tennis

<h2>Mike Skinner: Giving Back Through Tennis</h2>
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Tennis became a passion early in Mike Skinner’s life. His parents encouraged him to play and he took to it quickly. One of his early tennis memories was receiving a tennis award from Jack Kramer at a youth tennis clinic in Golden Gate Park. Mike continues his lifelong passion for tennis as the Executive Director for Youth Tennis Advantage.

 

While at Lowell High School (’65), Mike won the All City High School Doubles Championship, played No. 2 singles and learned how to teach tennis from Don Prince at the Menlo Circus Club. While at Occidental College (’69) in Los Angeles, CA, Mike played No. 1 singles and taught for Don Prince during summer vacations. He met his wife while playing the USTA Men’s 45 National Grass Court Championship in Philadelphia in 1994.

 

During the 1970s, Mike was an USPTA Teaching Professional working at the Katherine Delmar Burke School and Club in San Francisco, Paul Daly’s Swim & Racquet Club in Kentfield and several private courts in San Francisco and Napa.

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In 1974, Mike met Arthur Ashe at a tournament in Palm Springs. Ashe asked Mike to start a chapter of his new national tennis program called National Junior Tennis League (NJTL). Mike and his close friend, Lloyd Scott, were frustrated by the few tennis options low income kids had in San Francisco. Mike and Lloyd believed tennis could be a powerful tool to help disadvantaged kids by providing fun, healthy exercise and a way to connect to the community. Lloyd organized their first Board of Directors with Charlie Hoeveler, Barry MacKay, Tom Queen, Lloyd and Mike. The organization was incorporated in 1975 as the National Junior Tennis League of San Francisco, with Mike as the President for the first several years. It would become Youth Tennis Advantage (YTA) in 1999. Ashe helped the NJTL SF for about a decade, dedicating four new courts in Hunters Point built for NJTL SF in 1986.

 

NJTL SF added programs in San Francisco and Oakland in the 1980’s. A site at UC Berkeley was added in 2001 under Peter Wright, an NJTL Board member and Cal men’s tennis coach. NJTL SF added academic and life skills components in the 1990s. In 1998, NJTL SF earned the National Chapter of the Year. In 1999, NJTL SF combined with Youth Tennis Foundation. In 2014, Mike became the YTA Executive Director. In 2016, YTA was named USTA NorCal NJTL Chapter of the Year.  

 

In 2018 YTA celebrated its 50th anniversary. Today YTA runs free, year-round tennis, academic and life skills programs for over 300 low income kids in 5 locations.

 

Mike credits his strong Board of Directors and the great coaches for YTA’s success and ability to keep its focus on at-risk kids. Celebrities have helped YTA including Robin Williams, Willie Mays, Jack Kramer, and Joe Montana. YTA high school students graduate on time and go on to college, including Harvard and Princeton. “I’m proud we can give back and deeply touch these kids who don’t have the same options most of us take for granted. Our kids stay with us for many years and excel. One of our former students just joined our board. The success of our YTA kids show us every day how they can succeed despite economic challenges and other significant life adversities. I want to build a YTA strong enough to serve far more at-risk kids for another 50 years and beyond. Their success is our future.”  

 

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