Facility Feature: Woodland Tennis Club
The pandemic was a challenging time for everyone, but amid all of the uncertainty, one local Northern California tennis club was able to restore a sense of community throughout.
Woodland Tennis Club had a full treasury and was one of the only clubs to have open courts, so they decided to establish the Woodland Tennis Club Youth Scholarship Committee to offer scholarships to the youth of Woodland to increase the number of student-age kids that are exposed to tennis and develop their skills.
“We knew many kids were bored at home and parents were desperate to find activities for their family, so we thought this program might fill a need,” said James Ousey, the Woodland Tennis Club Scholarship Director. “The tennis club had plenty of money and this was a good way to spend it in our eyes.”
They first drew up a Scholarship Committee proposal in September 2020 to be approved by the board with a $2,000 start to be awarded as needed to any local youth.
And by October 2020, local tennis instructors were back to work and the program was up and running. James worked with the instructors to offer scholarships to the youth they thought would benefit from the help, as well scholarships to get more junior players out there playing.
However, it was slow to gain traction, so Woodland Tennis Club made an arrangement with the Woodland Community Services Department (WCSD) to set up a desk on Saturday mornings at the city park and advertise free tennis lessons for kids.
“Parents would answer my advertisement on the Nextdoor app, and when signing up at city park for their first month of lessons, they had to call the city on Monday and then I would pay for them by credit card during the next week,” James described.
Making the program work took imagination, since the instructors are employed by Phil Cello International Tennis Academy, which has a contract with the WCSD to promote tennis. So, they paid the city, and the city paid Phil, and Phil paid the instructors.
“It sounds complicated, but after the first week it worked well,” he added.
After a few months of successfully giving out scholarships, the WCSD offered unused grant money due to COVID-19 from the Sacramento Junior Tennis Fund to continue the program until it was all gone as well.
All in all, they were able to give out 69 scholarships in total so far. James also plans to award more scholarships in the future as we move out of the pandemic. He is currently exploring the idea of a tennis development program and getting kids to join an after-school tennis program by working with the schools and instructors together.
And not only was the Woodland Tennis Club able to support the youth tennis community, but they were able to get more sports fans participating in tennis and build out their membership.
“Once we were able to get our regular Thursday Night Tennis social event running again, we made it open to both members and non-members, so we got new players out there,” James said. “We played rocked music, kept confidence high by reminding all to practice social distancing, and we exposed new players who wanted to exercise to tennis, as well as recruited new members from the scholarship program.”
Ultimately, the club wanted to provide an outlet for the community. “We had open courts, so we should be spending it to promote tennis in Woodland. We wanted to help keep our community busy,” James said.